By Louis Wyatt
FORT WAYNE — Dupont Road construction has caused headaches for residents and business owners for several years, but the city of Fort Wayne hopes the finished project will more than make up for it. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and members of the City Council joined residents, businesses, church leaders and local organizations in celebrating the completion of the Dupont Road improvement project Sept. 4.
The comprehensive project added extra vehicle lanes to the growing corridor, as well as new pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.
“When we first brought Dupont Road into the city and began utilizing it as a thoroughfare, we only had about 6,000 or 7,000 cars a day that would go up and down Dupont,” Mayor Henry said. “We now have about 25,000 cars. That tells you a little bit about the amount of growth that has taken place in the northern part of our city.”
The nearly two miles of road improvements included expanding the roadway from two to four lanes, plus new turn lanes at neighborhood and business entrances. The project also added sidewalks and trails between Lima and Coldwater Roads, new ADA-compliant ramps and crosswalks, new traffic and pedestrian signals, decorative lighting and landscaping, and stormwater management upgrades including larger pipes and new water mains to increase capacity.
Federal dollars funded 80% of the $12.1 million project, which began in February 2018. During last week’s celebration, City Council member Tom Didier acknowledged that several businesses and residents were affected by the construction, which included closing Dupont between Lima and Coldwater roads for about three months beginning in April 2018. Several business owners and representatives of neighboring housing additions expressed their gratitude over the project finally reaching completion, with high hopes of a bright future.
“I think I actually had children, watched them grow up and graduate from high school while this project was going on,” Casa Restaurant Group Owner Jim Casaburo laughed, “but how beautifully it turned out. As a second-generation family business owner training a third generation, we have to be highly invested in our community — not only for our families but for future patrons.”
A major component of the project was a tunnel under Dupont Road that connects the Pufferbelly Trail north of Dupont to the rest of the trail system to the south, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to safely access to the network of trails surrounding the Parkview YMCA and Salomon Farm Park.
“It was a timely process, but it was definitely worth the wait,” Amy Griffith, associate executive director of YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne, said.
More than 3,000 residents have direct access to the redesigned stretch of Dupont, and Didier said connectivity with nearby neighborhoods was a major focus of the project.
During last week’s celebration, La Cabreah neighborhood association president Deb Parrish thanked the city for the new amenities she and her neighbors now have access to.
“The three months were a little trying and a lot of our residents were concerned about emergency services, but the city came through and helped with all of that,” she said. “We’re just so thankful. The residents in La Cabreah, there’s a lot of young families and lot of older families, and we all love the trails and love to be able to take our kids over to the YMCA by walking on the walkway or taking the bike trails.”
Steve Schumacher, vice president for the Fort Wayne North branch of Lake City Bank, and Praise Lutheran Church Senior Pastor Seth Korte also look forward to the benefit of increased connectivity within the community.
“This has allowed for a safe entrance into our campus and also a safe exit,” Korte said. “It has allowed for the alleviation of congestion with traffic, especially during certain times of the day. … This has allowed us to access parts of the community that were inaccessible or otherwise a little difficult.”
The Dupont improvement project was one of many overseen by City of Fort Wayne Public Works Director Shan Gunawardena over the years, including improvements on Maplecrest Road, Bluffton Road, Oxford Street, McKinnie Avenue and Maysville Road. During last week’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gunawardena shared some of the challenges the city faced to complete the Dupont project.
“In 2012 when we started the project, we had to make sure that we did it right because of the types of land uses that existed on both sides of the street, to make sure that we accommodated every type of user,” he said. “One of the priorities that we wanted to incorporate into the project was to make sure we eliminated those short-distance vehicular trips … so that we utilized our right of way as efficiently and expeditiously as possible.”
The project was designed by GAI Consultants and constructed by Phend and Brown, Inc. Components of the completed project include:
• 42,240 feet of constructed roadway
• 36,871 square yards of sod
• 25,475 feet of curb and gutters
• 19,742 feet of pavement striping
• 7,597 feet of sidewalk
• 7,350 feet of trail
• 7,533 plants and bushes
• 84 decorative street lights
• 53 ADA ramps
• 47 trees
• 28 pedestrian crosswalk buttons
• 12 traffic signal poles