How Bad Is New Orleans Traffic?

New Orleans ranks 9th among the most congested cities in the U.S., averaging 79 hours spent in traffic.
Written by Andrea Barrett
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
As the ninth-worst city for congested roads in the United States, New Orleans is no stranger to poor street conditions and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Inconsiderate drivers, poor infrastructure, and badly timed lights all contribute to the $977.02 drivers waste yearly sitting in traffic. 
New Orleans, Louisiana
, more commonly referred to as NOLA, is home to some of the best Southern food and one of the most famous festivals. But it’s also no stranger to the annoying traffic that comes with big-city living. With a poor transportation system and roads that could easily pop your tires, New Orleans ranks among some of the worst areas for gridlock in the world.
Making the top 50 worst cities to drive in globally, New Orleans has its fair share of traffic problems. Here to give you the ins and outs of driving in New Orleans is car insurance super app,
Jerry
. We’ll cover how bad driving is in New Orleans, what affects the flow of traffic, and how to navigate NOLA like an F1 driver. 

How bad is New Orleans traffic?

As the ninth-most congested city in the United States according to
Inrix
—and the 49th-most congested city in the world—NOLA is no stranger to horrendous driving conditions. Whether it’s poorly synchronized lights, bad roads, or rush hour, residents lose more than 79 hours a year to congestion and pay an average of $977.02 extra for time spent in traffic.
Although 79 hours may seem on the high side, it’s actually decreased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Pre-COVID, drivers lost a whopping 92 hours!
Year
Hours lost to congestion
2019
92 hours
2020
65 hours
2021
79 hours
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Why is New Orleans traffic so bad?

The sheer number of cars on the road is a major factor in roadway congestion and accidents, but it’s too simplistic to be the only issue. Generally speaking, city congestion is the result of multiple factors such as increasing city population, transportation system infrastructure, and resident driving habits, all of which combine to interfere with traffic flow. 
Here are some of the top factors that make New Orleans one of the country’s most congested cities:

Metro population

The New Orleans metro area is home to over 1.2 million people, making it the 45th-most populous city in the United States. And of millions who reside here, 68.5% of them commute alone, while another 9.2% carpool with others. 
That’s more than 75% of the population driving in and out of the city—so it’s easy to see why roads are packed. And with a projection of more than 45,000 new jobs in 2022, it’s only going to get busier.

Traffic hotspots

Driving through rush hour in any city can bring out road rage in even the calmest of drivers. But if you’re not keen on getting stuck on NOLA’s bumper-to-bumper roadways, it’s best to avoid the heavily trafficked areas. 
Of the areas to avoid, I-10 is especially key. It ranks as No. 4 on the five deadliest roads in the country! And while it spans over 2,400 miles in eight states coast to coast, the stretch through New Orleans is the deadliest of all. 
As of 2019, there were 54 fatal accidents for every 100 miles of road on I-10. The stretch through New Orleans alone claimed 89 lives, most of which were due to distracted or impaired driving.
While I-10 may be the most dangerous travel route in NOLA, there are some other busy areas you may want to avoid
  • South Rampart Street
  • Lasalle Street
  • South Derbigny Street
  • Orleans Avenue
  • North Claiborne Avenue / Pauger Street
  • Westbank Expressway
  • Louisa Street

Insufficient funding

Poor funding is a big factor as to why New Orleans has some of the worst roads in the country. Adjacent states like South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida have greater revenue streams, which means they can take care of their road systems. 
But for Louisiana, the climate isn’t conducive to good roads or pothole prevention. While the city can’t do much to change the climate, it can do something to change the funding.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, 25% of Louisiana’s roads are in poor condition, compared to just 9% in Arkansas and 11% in Texas. Rough-riding conditions make for greater congestion and a bigger risk of accidents.
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How to navigate New Orleans traffic like a pro

If you’re planning to hit NOLA for Mardi Gras and aren’t interested in spending your days choked up in gridlock, learning how to navigate the city will be your key to avoiding frustration. 
Although skirting traffic completely may be impossible, there are certain steps you can take to cut back on the time spent in your car and enjoy a smooth sail through NOLA: 
  • Head out early. If your job requires you to go downtown or cut through the city, commuting during non-peak times can save you a bunch of hours in your vehicle. If possible, adjust your schedule so that you’re leaving before the roads get heavy. Commuting earlier also means you’re at a lesser risk of being involved in accidents, which will keep your car insurance rates nice and low. 
  • Stay clear of rush hour. Rush hour in New Orleans can be a nightmare for drivers, especially coming and going from the east, west, or Northshore. To avoid getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper conditions, travel outside of peak driving times
  • Map out alternate routes. High population densities mean busy roads. With deplorable road conditions, New Orleans is no stranger to accidents and stand-still traffic, and if you're not interested in adding an extra hour or two to your commute, map out alternate routes before you head out
  • Tune into your local news. Stay in the know on all the latest traffic updates by tuning into local news stations like
    WJBO 1150 AM
    ,
    WRNO 99.5 FM
    , and
    WYLD 940 AM
    .

Prepare for New Orleans traffic by updating your car insurance

If you’re planning to hit the road during Mardi Gras or venture out for some good ol’ Southern cuisine, make sure you have the proper insurance to keep you protected from accidents in New Orleans! When you shop with
car insurance
super app
Jerry
, you can say goodbye to the days of high premiums. Jerry connects you with the best insurance providers to find you the best coverage at the lowest rate. 
All you have to do is download the Jerry app, enter your information, and Jerry searches through 50+ insurers to find you competitive quotes. Once you choose the policy that’s right for you, Jerry’s team of experts will take care of getting it set up so you can focus on the road ahead. 
Jerry
was quick, simple, and saved me a headache searching for the best policy on my brand-new car. I definitely like this service!” —Rich N.
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FAQs

For the most part, driving in New Orleans is tolerable. But if you’re driving during rush hour on some of the poorest-condition roads, don’t be surprised if you’re bumper to bumper. Plus, the addition of bike lanes in certain parts of downtown has made traffic in the Central Business District worse.
Driving outside of peak travel times (rush hour) is the best opportunity for smooth sailing on New Orleans’ roads. Typically, that’s before 7:00 to 7:30 a.m., after 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., and between 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.
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