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Fort Wayne officials, council member find common ground on traffic plans

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 6:19 am

Fort Wayne transportation officials say they agree in spirit with a City Council resolution that urges a gentler approach to traffic planning, but state guidelines limit them from enacting some of the changes.

Councilman John Shoaff, D-at large, has introduced a resolution that would urge city traffic planners to use the “context-sensitive” approach – one that seeks lots of community input and tries to minimize historic and environmental impact – or risk failure to get funding from council. Shoaff has been critical of the upcoming project to widen and straighten State Boulevard just west of Clinton Street.

Fort Wayne Public Works Director Bob Kennedy said city planners try to use the approach as much as possible but must adhere to the Indiana Department of Transportation's design manual because INDOT distributes federal highway money.

“We always follow the (context-sensitive) process as much as we can,” Kennedy said. “There's only certain things we can follow, and some things, we just can't.”

For example, city Engineer Shan Gunawardena said, some neighborhood residents would like for the State Boulevard project to include a tree-lined median. But INDOT forbids the placement of fixed objects within 10 feet of any travel lane.

City officials have proposed several amendments to Shoaff's resolution, stating that traffic planners would follow the context-sensitive approach except when it goes against state guidelines and could jeopardize federal funding.

The federal government is paying for 80 percent of the State Boulevard work, estimated at between $11 million and $14 million, Gunawardena said.

Council members voted Tuesday to hold Shoaff's resolution for two weeks, giving members time to review the new amendments.

Shoaff said he was glad that city officials appeared mostly “on board” with his recommendations, though he had not looked closely at their amendments.

“I do think the city made a very appropriate step in our direction,” Shoaff said. “It's a pleasure to be working together with people and not being adversarial. I feel good about it.”