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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
A lane of Clinton Street was torn out between Main and Berry streets so that the sidewalk can be enlarged to include planters and decorative lighting.

CAUTION: Road work ahead

Though it seems like a lot, fewer projects getting attention this year

They are as regular as summer cicadas: Every year when the weather gets warm, when the trees bud and flowers bloom, the orange barrels appear.

Yes, it’s road construction season, and this one promises to be every bit as frustrating as the others that have come before.

“We have a limited construction season in Indiana, so as soon as the weather breaks in April, we try and get projects out the door, and we try to get them wrapped up by October,” said Bob Kennedy, director of public works for the city of Fort Wayne. “You do see a lot of construction in the summer.”

But when you’re sitting in traffic and it’s 100 degrees and humid while you wait for the 300 cars in front of you that have no idea how to merge, remember this: It could be worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it.

Most road construction is paid for by the gas tax, but as cars have become more efficient and as people drove less during the recession, gas tax revenues have fallen, meaning there is less money for road construction. Fort Wayne officials estimate they would need about $60 million to get roads up to where they need to be. Instead, they have about $4.5 million, and $1 million of that is from the Legacy Fund, which was meant to go to other projects.

The state has promised the city an extra $2 million for 2014 and $2 million more for 2015, but by then the city will be even further behind. So while it may seem like there are orange barrels everywhere you try to drive, there are not nearly as many of them as officials say there should be.

Still, there will be plenty of guys in hardhats out there: The city’s list of streets getting resurfaced this summer runs three pages – about 20 miles in all. There are also concrete street reconstructions, concrete repairs, trail projects, 10 miles worth of chip-and-seal work, curbs, sidewalks and wheelchair ramps.

Of course, there are also county and state projects to deal with, as well.

Anthony closed

One of the city’s largest projects this summer is already under way: Creating a left-turn lane on West Jefferson Boulevard for Taylor Street. The busy west-bound Jefferson is already down to one lane as crews reconstruct the roadway to accommodate the new lane and improved median areas.

Other prominent projects include removing a lane on Clinton Street between Main and Berry streets downtown to accommodate a larger sidewalk with planters and decorative lighting; resurfacing Stellhorn Road from Maysville Road east to the railroad tracks; and resurfacing Tillman Road in the Crown Colony neighborhood, which will also see concrete reconstruction.

A major project from last year, improvements to Auburn Road between Cook Road and Clinton Street, will be finished this summer.

Allen County officials also will have many projects this summer, but the most visible – and most troublesome for drivers – will be the replacement of the Maumee River bridge on Anthony Boulevard.

That work, scheduled to start in July, will require the complete closure of the bridge, forcing a detour to the Tecumseh Street bridge a half-mile west. The only good news is that officials say the project should be done by December, and the new bridge should last for decades.

Another county project that will have a big impact on drivers will be the Union Chapel Road roundabouts at Auburn and Diebold roads. Because of the way construction needs to proceed, first one intersection, then the other will be completely closed. When it is complete, however, drivers will be able to enjoy a new interchange for Interstate 69 with roundabouts at each end of the reconstructed bridge, plus new roundabouts to the east and west. Work should be done by November.

Flutter Road will be reconstructed and get two new bridges in a project expected to take until August 2015, and Carroll Road will have work done on two bridges.

Work should finish on the bridge projects on Old U.S. 24 near Woodburn and on St. Joe Center Road.

Coliseum Blvd. work

What could have been a major headache for drivers is being structured to spare us as much pain as possible: the resurfacing of most of Coliseum Boulevard. The $4.3 million project is already under way, with crews doing deep patching. But like the milling and resurfacing to come, all the work that requires lanes to close is scheduled to be done during the evening and nighttime hours, with most restrictions being lifted by 6 a.m. daily. The seven-mile long project also includes Lima Road between Washington Center and Coliseum and includes Coliseum all the way to the cloverleaf on the city’s east side.

INDOT spokeswoman Mary Foster did not know if the milling will be done separately from the resurfacing, forcing drivers to use a milled surface and dodge manholes, but she said all the work will be done in phases. The project should be done in October.

One headache drivers are already dealing with is the bridge deck replacement on Covington Road over I-69. When the new bridge opens in November, it will be wider and carry the Covington Road Trail. The intersection with Dicke Road at the east end of the bridge will also be improved and get a traffic signal.

Other projects include the Indiana 14 widening between West Hamilton and Scott roads; pavement restoration on I-469; and replacing the bridge on I-69 over Little Black Creek at mile 271.

Want to get away from all this and head to Michigan? You’ll have to get through the resurfacing of I-69 between U.S. 20 and the state line first. The $9.3 million project requires lane closures that will stay in place even over the holiday weekend. If it seems like the construction will never end, don’t worry – it will.

Just in time for snow season to begin.

dstockman@jg.net

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