When then-Indiana House member Mitch Harper approached Ken Knoblauch in fall 1989 and asked him to help organize a meeting about a new, improved U.S. 24, Knoblauch agreed – and added a special touch.
It was Knoblauch who designed a banner with the words: “Fort to Port.”
Over 23 years, the Fort to Port nickname stuck, even as efforts to build a safer highway from eastern Allen County to Toledo faced a lack of funding and a maze of bureaucratic red tape. And on Wednesday, Knoblauch's Fort to Port dream finally became real.
“Here I am standing on it today,” Knoblauch said after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Indiana's $170 million portion of the highway. “It's the realization of a dream, really.”
The widened four-lane expressway in Allen County replaced old U.S. 24 – a narrow, winding rural highway that had become notorious for heavy truck traffic and deadly accidents. From 2002 to 2006, about 40 wrecks occurred each year on Indiana's portion of the highway, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Gov. Mitch Daniels, in one of his last official acts in office, held a ceremony Wednesday to officially open the new U.S. 24. The project was paid for with money from Daniels' “Major Moves” highway program, which generated more than $3 billion through the lease of the Indiana Toll Road to a private consortium.
“There are a lot of people here who have been working on this project for years and years and years,” Daniels said. “Thanks for not giving up, thanks for believing sooner or later, we'd find a way.”