Allen County officials approved the beginning stages of a multimillion-dollar road and trails project Tuesday.
County Council members approved $1.8 million for the highway project that will completely rebuild about 4.5 miles of Bass Road.
The project is slated to be completed in 2020 and cost $35 million overall, county Highway Director Bill Hartman said.
After federal reimbursement, the county’s cost will be about $7 million, or 20 percent, Hartman said.
The heavily traveled Bass Road has a chip-and-seal surface over gravel.
“That will be torn out, and we will rebuild the road and bring it up to standard,” Hartman said.
Over improvements include widening the bridge over Interstate 69 and adding walking trails along the entire stretch of road, including the bridge, which will provide access to Buckner Park from the east, Hartman said.
The road will be widened and turning lanes will be added.
The project will include at least two and potentially four roundabout intersections at Hadley, Thomas, Kroemer and Scott roads. A final decision on the number and locations will be made after construction begins, Hartman said.
Utility location and right-of-way work is expected to begin next year with construction set to begin in 2014, Hartman said.
“We have about $2.6 million reserved for this project,” he said.
The county will need about $5.8 million for local costs once the construction begins, Hartman said.
Should Fort Wayne annex any portion of the site during construction, city officials have agreed to complete the project, Hartman said.
The council agreed to reinstate the $19,500 budget of the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District, which was eliminated in the fall, and to take over the financial administration of the district.
Forced to make cuts during budget hearings, the Allen County commissioners elected not to pay for the district’s operating costs, which are normally about $20,000.
“I just don’t think the commissioners understood what the district does and how important it is,” said County Councilman Roy Buskirk, R-at large, who is a liaison to the district’s board.
The state funds the district $10,000 for base operations, and those funds are also used for federal grant programs when possible, said Greg Lake, Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District director.
Lake and an administrative secretary are paid a total of $119,000 and the district relies on the county for its operational costs.
Currently the district has active programs in area river watersheds and works with landowners and farmers to address water quality and sediment issues.