The widening of Interstate 69 in the Fort Wayne area has suddenly become the source of much interest as the project heads toward its beginning point sometime in the Spring of next year. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) recently held a public hearing at Homestead High School to inform the people of Aboite Township about the project, including the disruption that will be caused by the rebuilding of the Aboite Center Rd. bridge over I-69. The bridge must be reconstructed to accommodate six lanes, meaning that from approximately March through September of next year, the bridge will be closed to all traffic. You can imagine the traffic problems that will be caused by this situation, but INDOT says there is simply no other way to do it. They plan to install permanent traffic signals at the intersections of Aboite Center and Homestead Roads, as well as at Homestead and Liberty Mills. Still, the bridge rebuild will put tremendous pressure on the three other key Aboite arteries: Covington, Illinois, and Liberty Mills.
The widening of I-69 is clearly needed, as traffic along the corridor between US 24 and Dupont Road has increased dramatically in the past ten years. In fact, INDOT estimates that the volume of traffic along this portion of the highway has increased from 6,900 vehicles in 1966 to over 62,000 daily, practically a ten-fold jump. During that time period, truck traffic has increased approximately 500%.
With this proposed widening, two parallel projects are being proposed by several Aboite neighborhoods in the hope that the project could make some long-needed improvements economically feasible.
The first is the proposal instigated by the Oak Borough neighborhood to have sound barriers constructed along the corridor between US 24 and Illinois Roads—at least, where there are neighborhood areas adjoining the highway. There is no question that the highway was there before most of the neighborhoods were built along the corridor. However, the huge increase in traffic, as well as the anticipated increase that necessitates the widening of the interstate, has created a noise pollution problem that needs to be addressed. The residents along the highway correctly note that now is the time to strike, when there is a project underway, and apparently some money to be had.
Of course, therein lies the rub: Money. At a time when the State is very short of cash, and every highway project is being pressed to cut out extras, it becomes extremely difficult to find additional money for extras such as sound barriers that were never calculated into the budgeting estimates. Nevertheless, I intend to press INDOT to support the erection of sound barriers along the neighborhoods adjacent to I-69. Such barriers are very common in California, which really eliminate most of the noise from the highway. They have also been constructed at various points adjacent to the ongoing widening of I-465 in Indianapolis. Thus, sound barriers are a proven way to significantly decrease the noise pollution along interstate corridors, and they've been successfully used in Indiana already. I think its time they were implemented in Fort Wayne.
Again, the issue is money. And also, time. The project needs to go out for bid within the next 60 days or so. Getting sound barriers into the project at this point is a major challenge, but one that is being worked on as you read this article.
The other project which has taken shape is the re-routing of storm water away from the Inverness Hills neighborhood. Unknown to many is the fact that this area suffered major flood damage from the flash rain this summer that dumped eight inches of rain on the area in only two hours. Years of projects being constructed to the north of the neighborhood, along N. Hadley Rd., without retention ponds or adequate drainage precautions, has created a situation where a huge area north of Inverness Hills drains right through the lake in the center of the neighborhood.
It so happens that the INDOT planned to construct holding tanks under the interstate immediately adjacent to the Inverness Hills neighborhood in order to slow the runoff into the neighborhood's drainage system. The cost of these tanks is enough that if INDOT were to transfer these dollars to the County Drainage Board, there could be enough money available to construct a bypass drain around the neighborhood and thereby avoid future flooding problems. With the help of County Commissioner Linda Bloom and County Surveyor Al Freisinger, as well as INDOT, these discussions are headed toward a resolution in the near future.
Lots going on, and very little time. Stay tuned. I'll report back to you about the ultimate solution achieved on these two I-69 related problems.