Modeling Environmental Health Impacts of I-10 to Engage Residents and Decision Makers

New Orleans, Louisiana

Featured image for the project, Modeling Environmental Health Impacts of I-10 to Engage Residents and Decision Makers


The Claiborne Corridor in New Orleans, Louisiana, is a network of neighborhoods surrounding Claiborne Avenue, a major thoroughfare running more than 9 miles through the city center.  It extends from Jefferson Parish in the west to St. Bernard Parish in the east and encompasses a number of predominantly African American communities, including the nation’s oldest, Tremé.  In the late 1960s, Interstate 10 was constructed above the central segment of Claiborne Avenue in and around Tremé. The impacts of I-10 on neighboring communities since that time have been far-reaching. The physical division of previously connected neighborhoods and the removal of businesses along what used to be a commercial artery have fragmented the community socially, culturally, and economically.  Today, poverty and crime are disproportionately experienced by residents of the Claiborne Corridor, and reliable access to jobs, housing, and transportation remains a challenge.

Claiborne Avenue Alliance is a coalition of local residents and business owners whose aim is to “reclaim, restore, and rebuild” communities along the Claiborne Corridor that have been negatively impacted by the construction of I-10.  The environmental and health impacts of I-10’s presence are a key concern that motivates their engagement with TEX.  Air pollution from vehicle emissions is a particular concern, and residents near the interstate note that particulates visibly coat the walls of homes and businesses.  Noise and light pollution associated with vehicle traffic compound potential health effects.  Moreover, the removal and paving over of historic green spaces along the corridor have exacerbated the impacts of local flooding, with consequences for water quality, ease of local transportation, use of outdoor spaces, etc.

Despite efforts to raise residents’ concerns via position statements, media engagement, and discussions with local authorities, Claiborne Avenue Alliance feels that the community’s voice is not being fully heard by decision makers.  They believe their voice would be amplified and residents empowered by a comprehensive, data-driven documentation of the environmental and health impacts of the I-10 corridor.  While some such data already exist, these are spread across multiple sources, and the cumulative effects of multiple environmental stressors is not easily communicated.  These concerns are set against the backdrop of the upcoming New Orleans Tricentennial and associated plans by local authorities to revitalize Claiborne Avenue, which present both challenges and opportunities.

Claiborne Avenue Alliance seeks support to mine, compile, and interpret existing data documenting the environmental impacts of the I-10 corridor on the health and well-being of local residents, and to communicate these impacts to relevant parties.  They are especially interested in scenario modelling as a means of communicating the cumulative impacts of I-10 in its current state, as well as scenarios that model alternative, improved visions of the future of the Claiborne Corridor (e.g., with new environmental safeguards in place).  In their own words, “We want to be able to effectively communicate our experience [of living with the I-10 corridor] and our vision [of what Claiborne could be].” This work would culminate in a community forum bringing together residents, decision makers, media, and other stakeholders.  The aim of this forum is to engage all parties in a collective vision, supported by science, visualized via scenario modeling, and communicated in creative and digestible ways.  Specifically, the groups hopes this work will:

  1. engage and empower residents through improved understanding/knowledge;
  2. strengthen the community’s voice and leverage with local decision makers; and
  3. focus their efforts to inform local policy decisions by identifying leverage points related to environmental and health outcomes.



Claiborne Ave Alliance Leads a Corridor Tour

New Orleans, LA

Community leaders from Claiborne Avenue Alliance led a walking tour of the Claiborne corridor on September 15th for engineers, planners, architects, public officials and scientists—many of whom were attending the Walk Bike Places Transit Conference that week. The tour was co-organized with The Congress for New Urbanism to highlight the socio-economic and public health impacts of the I-10 corridor on residents living in nearby neighborhoods. Public Health students from Dr. Adrienne Katner’s team presented the results from their analyses of environmental impacts and the associated health complications. Student Erin LeCompte presented on her analysis of noise along the corridor, showing the group real-time noise data collected using an app installed on her smart phone. Caroline Stallard, a second-year medical student at LSU’s school for Public Health, presented findings from a literature review she conducted to provide a characterization of the environmental health concerns, including noise pollution, cancer rates, cardiovascular health, and benzene exposure. Claiborne Avenue Alliance community leader, Amy Stelly, led the group around the corridor highlighting the challenges that come with living alongside an urban highway. She pointed to concerns related to homelessness, drug use, noise from traffic, flooding, and access to green space. The group plans to bring a presentation to a community development meeting before the end of 2018.












Photos courtesy of Adrienne Katner

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Project Team

Community Leads

Amy Stelly and Tamah Yisrael, represent the leadership of the Claiborne Ave. Alliance.   Claiborne Ave. Alliance members, Emily Gaddis and Margaret Thomas, are also involved to provide their knowledge of local environmental issues and the local healthcare system.

Amy Stelly serves the New Orleans community as an advocate for the redevelopment of the Claiborne Corridor.  She has advocated for water safety and water management, written about the value of public engagement, lectured on community garden design, and the history of open space in Treme.

Amy is an artist, designer, and planner. Her body of work includes architectural and urban design, along with abstract painting, drawing, mask-making, photography, mixed-media and three-dimensional construction. As a designer and planner, her scope of work includes building and open space design, historic restoration, downtown and neighborhood revitalization, environmental planning, municipal zoning, incentives, entitlements, site planning, streetscapes and gardens. She has also led collaborative projects and taught integrated arts to a variety of students including autistic, gifted, main-stream and incarcerated youth.


Tamah Yisrael is the Executive Director of Builders of the Highway Foundation, a national non-profit.  Through her leadership the Foundation has successfully merged the Neo Jazz School of Music under its umbrella and developed the Tombar Life Center.  Yisrael is a business owner and community advocate and dedicated to providing education and opportunity through music and the arts.  Her previous professional experience includes hospitality business management, chief financial officer, controller, paralegal, and bookkeeper.

Emily K. Gaddis, M.A., is a social entrepreneur, educator, intercultural trainer, and eco artist.  As a trained curriculum developer, she applies an interdisciplinary approach to environmental education with attention to empowering communities to reduce their exposure to chemicals of concern and inspire others to lead positive lives.

Her journey in sustainable business operations began in 2015, and within the first six months, she won seven of eight live business pitch contests, secured start up funding exclusively through grants, and completed business accelerator Cleantech Open. In 2016 she co-founded the first natural wine shop in Louisiana, Spirit Wine. By re-designing operations, Spirit Wine eliminated over 90% of its waste, switched to clean energy, and formed strategic partnerships to recycle all product packaging. Having tested the waters of operating a triple bottom line business, her main mission in life is to collaborate with business, community, and government to bring the circular economy to the South and create a strong network of green collar jobs.


Scientific Liaisons

Dr. Adrienne Katner is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University-Health Science Center’s School of Public Health in the Environmental and Occupational Health Program. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Katner worked at the National Cancer Institute’s Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, where she conducted exposure assessments for a nationwide non-Hodgkin lymphoma study; and at the Louisiana Office of Public Health (LOPH), where she oversaw several statewide environmental health programs.

Dr. Katner’s research garnered national attention in the aftermath of Flint, Michigan, as her results and findings highlighted problems with drinking water regulations and prevailing guidelines to reduce exposure to lead from drinking water. She has used her research to propel policy changes and government action, including: a statewide policy change by LOPH to require water testing during home inspections of lead-poisoned children; a follow-up state investigation and confirmation of a significant lead in water crisis in the town of St. Joseph, LA, which resulted in a Public Health Emergency Proclamation,  and state replacement of the town’s corroding drinking water infrastructure; and triggering an New Orleans Office of Inspector General report, which raised awareness of an imminent risk” to residents from lead spikes in water after partial lead service line replacements.

Dr. Katner received a Bachelors in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz; a Masters in Soil, Water and Environmental Science from the University of Arizona; a Doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles; and “Katrina Hero for Environmental Justice” and “Community Angel” awards from local non-profits for her work to increase awareness of lead in water hazards and cost-effective exposure prevention solutions.

Dr. Kari Fitzmorris Brisolara is an Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the LSU Health Sciences Center, School of Public Health in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She received her BS in Biology and Physics from Louisiana College, MSPH and Doctor of Science degrees in Environmental Health Sciences from Tulane University, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.  After Tulane, she accepted a post-doctoral appointment with the United States Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Research Service where she spent two years focused on the development of activated carbon from agricultural residuals.  In addition to research and continuing education programs, she has also participated in community-based projects related to migrant worker health in Georgia, the development of congressional position statements on aspects of the Farm Bill, and is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer.