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Last updated: Thu. Sep. 24, 2009 - 10:37 am EDT

COLUMN

We need solution for Indiana 930

Some government entity must be in charge of maintaining busy Coliseum Boulevard

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Indiana 930 is one of Fort Wayne's busiest and most-congested thoroughfares, shuttling thousands of vehicles each day between such vital destinations as Memorial Coliseum, IPFW, Ivy Tech and Glenbrook Square.

But even though some of its features receive a failing grade from transportation planners and would take years to correct even if work started tomorrow, a 20-year-old bureaucratic standoff has produced a paralysis that continues to frustrate state and local officials alike - not to mention motorists caught in the middle.

Built in the 1950s as the U.S. 30 Bypass or “Circumurban” Highway, the 11-mile road, part of which is also known as Coliseum Boulevard, links Goshen Avenue on the west with New Haven on the east and was supposed to have been transferred from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to the city, county and New Haven when the first part of Interstate 469 opened in the late 1980s. But, for reasons not even some of the participants can remember, that never happened.

Stalemate has been the result.

“We feel it is an important regional corridor, very important to economic development,” said Dan Avery, who, as executive director of the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRCC), is responsible for developing long-range transportation-improvements goals. His agency's 2030 plan calls for Indiana 930 to be widened from four to six lanes between Parnell and Crescent avenues, parts of which handle more than 50,000 vehicles daily.

Because it's a state highway, Avery said, the improvements can't happen without INDOT's cooperation and funding.

“We've put a lot of money into it, but (Indiana 930) is a city street,” said INDOT Regional Director Bob Alderman, adding that the road is generally adequate, but is hard-pressed to handle peak traffic periods. INDOT will continue to maintain and plow the road, he said, but has no plans to make the kind of major, expensive improvements Avery envisions.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way, of course.

Back in May 1989, I wrote a story about how the state was about to relinquish 45 miles of roads within the I-469 beltway to the city and county - the largest such transfer in local history.

The rationale was logical enough: Once the new bypass opened, traffic would be diverted from state routes cutting through town. The state would repair the old routes, such as U.S. 24 (now Jefferson Boulevard) and maybe give the city and county a little money for ongoing maintenance. And both sides would live happily ever after.

But, for some reason, the U.S. 30 bypass remained in state hands.

“Maybe the city and county were hesitant to take it,” recalled John Passey, a private engineer who was INDOT's Fort Wayne director at the time. His recollection is bolstered by current city and county officials, who say their departments lack the money needed to maintain and improve such an expensive stretch of road.

“There were discussions (about a transfer), but nothing was written down,” said city transportation engineer Dave Ross. “It would cost millions just to resurface.”

Indiana 930 also includes several large bridges, which the County Highway Department would have to maintain should the road come under local control. “That would be tough for us,” Hartman said.

So nothing is being done, even though NIRCC gives some of the traffic flow at certain intersections an “F.” The left turn from Coliseum Boulevard into the IPFW campus had to be closed, for example, because the turn lane was too short to accommodate the traffic, causing a dangerous backup into eastbound travel lanes.

Avery, Ross and other transportation officials told me that the “9” in Indiana 930 indicates INDOT considers the highway a low priority. But as the region's chief transportation planning agency, NIRCC's judgments are supposed to carry some weight. So when Avery says improvements to Indiana 930 “are a need, not a want,” important to the continued growth of such regional assets as IPFW, Ivy Tech and Northeast Indiana Innovation Center - which is about to undergo a $10 million expansion - failure to act because of a simple turf war should be acceptable to no one.

The state, county and city all face major road expenses even without adding Indiana 930 into the mix. But, working together - opening up the possibility of obtaining millions in federal funds - could reduce the challenge considerably.

A major road project takes six to eight years from planning to completion, Avery said.

All the more reason to start now.


This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel.
E-mail Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news- sentinel.com, or call him at 461-8355.


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