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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Engle Road, which lacks sidewalks, is a likely walking route to Kekionga Middle School.

Sunday, August 06, 2017 1:00 am

Dangerous walk to school attracts city's attention

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

Alan Ball lives on Three Oaks Drive in one of those subdivisions off Ardmore Avenue.

He has a son who always rode the bus to school, but that is changing. He will attend Kekionga Middle School this year, and he'll have to walk.

That in itself doesn't bother Ball. His complaint is that there is no safe means of walking to the school. The roads his son could take to get to school – Ardmore, Engle or Tielker – are two-lane roads, some with heavy car and truck traffic, and no sidewalks.

Ball says he's concerned for all students who have to walk to school along these roads, particularly in the winter.

“It's extremely unsafe,” he says. “It's only a matter of time” before something happens.

So Ball wrote a letter to the city, expressing his unhappiness with the lack of sidewalks, and he forwarded a copy to several news organizations. Ball says that the morning after he sent the letter, someone from the city called and said they'd go out to the Engle Road area and assess the situation.

“They're being positive, so let's stay positive,” Ball says. He knows nothing is going to change overnight.

Ball certainly isn't alone in his concerns. Circumstances are beginning to arise that make people realize that whoever designed the city over the last 50 years or so made a mistake when they didn't throw in sidewalks – and some subdivision developers didn't want them – as the city expanded.

One of those circumstances has to do with school funding. Schools are cutting back on busing, requiring more students to walk, and plenty of parents are discovering their children have to walk along dangerous roads.

But the city is listening. In the past few weeks, it installed a sidewalk along Bluffton Road, where pedestrians are a common sight, from Winchester Road to Lower Huntington Road.

Also, the city recently passed a local income tax increase, and some of that will be used to make sidewalks a top priority, said John Perlich, a spokesman for the city.

The city is looking at 24 schools with the highest enrollment and evaluating the routes that students have to take to get to school, said Shan Gunawardena, the city engineer.

Fort Wayne is trying to tackle the issue in various ways, Gunawardena said. Every time the city improves a road, it is trying to include sidewalks in the project. But it's not always easy.

There are plans to improve Engle Road, which carries a lot of traffic – trucks to industrial areas and cars to the southwest part of Fort Wayne. But the city has very little right-of-way along that road, and acquiring right-of-way is a complicated and expensive process, Gunawardena said.

So it sounds like someday something will get done along Engle Road. It might not be done before Ball's son completes middle school, but at least Ball's letter has let city officials know there's one more place where people want sidewalks.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.