City: road improvements will add downtown roundabout, improve traffic

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new roundabout is expected to be built later this year just south of the Wells Street Bridge.  It’s part of a nearly $4 million project that also includes changing Fairfield and Ewing Avenues from one-way to two-way streets.

City officials hope construction begins in June, and that all road construction is done sometime in November.

As part of the project, a roundabout will replace the traffic light at the intersection of Wells, Superior, and Ewing Street, and Fairfield Avenue.  The roundabout will have a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, and is expected to handle 20,000 motorists per day.

South of there, Fairfield and Ewing will be converted from one-way streets, to two-way streets to Brackenridge Road.

“When these streets were one way, it was back in an era when the thought was to get people to move as quickly as possible,” Frank Suarez, a spokesperson for the city’s department of Public Works, said.  “It was to get them to work at GE where there were parking lots on the other side of the railroad track on Fairfield.  Those aren’t used anymore.  The change in this corridor has changed pretty dramatically.”

The changes are also expected to help promote area businesses between the two north-south roads.

“Studies show that economically, for a business, it’s better to have a two-way street that you can see and get more visibility from both directions.  It’s also more friendly for visitors who come to town.”

Suarez said Mayor Tom Henry announced plans for the project back in 2011, and added that most businesses affected by the construction were in favor of the project.

“Downtown has changed tremendously, and traffic patterns, along with everything else, needs to change with it,” Trois Hart, Vice President of Marketing at the University of Saint Francis, said.  “It’s smart that the traffic engineers are studying for the benefit of safety, traffic, and retail.”

The university not only has the Performing Arts Center, located on Berry Street between Ewing and Fairfield, but plans to move it’s business school to the same area.

“Recently we had a play at the Performing Arts Center here,” Hart said.  “It was Willy Wonka.  We had over 5,000 people come throughout the performances.  Parking can be very confusing who aren’t familiar with it.  Visitors coming to the Performing Arts Center, first of all, it will be very convenient for them to find the location and then also navigate parking once they get downtown.”

Part of the project also includes adding landscaping along the sides of Fairfield and Ewing, adding protected sidewalks – where grass strips are between the sidewalk and road – to both streets, and bike lanes on both sides of the roads.  Some landscaping may not be completed until the spring of 2015.

Other construction includes converting Baker Street into a two-way road, adding sidewalks to a portion of Jefferson Boulevard, and making a part of Main Street into a two lane road with a bike and turning lane.

City leaders will have a better idea on the total cost of the project some once bids are placed some time in mid-May.  The project was funded through Legacy dollars.

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