Harrison Square Staging Area

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In last Thursday’s Redevelopment Commission meeting, the Commission approved Resolution 2008-05.  This resolution approved a lease for $1,100 per month of the area to the East of Fairfield Avenue between the CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroad lines.  There was a public hearing held before the regular special meeting of the Commission.  No one spoke either in favor or against the resolution.  It was stated in the meeting that this lease is necessary because of the “tightness” of the Harrison Square construction area which I have no doubt about.  I also have no doubt that this is about the only suitable area to be used for such a purpose.  On the Southeast side of the Norfolk Southern Railroad line that divides the area is another large area suitable for this purpose.  However, most of this other area is covered with brush and small trees:

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The top of the map is North

Considering this, the area selected makes the best sense.  But, this brings up some other concerns.  This staging area will be used to hold materials needed in the construction area.  Things like steel beams, parking deck components and equipment as well.  The railroad viaduct on the south side has a maximum height clearance of 11′ 8″ while the north one has a clearance of 13′ 9″.  Semi-trucks are able to pass without problem, but what about oversized loads of the type that might be coming with this project?  The viaducts are considerably aged.  I do not have the exact years when they were built, but I do know the railroads do regular inspections of the infrastructure to make sure it meets safety standards.  I’m hoping this issue was examined before hand – in fact, I’m pretty sure it has been.  The effects, if any, of heavy truck traffic through the viaducts remain to be seen.

Putting this aside however, one turns to traffic concerns.  I doubt the city will bring in equipment or components from the South along Fairfield because of the residential nature of the area.  Taylor is narrow and also has another viaduct to be navigated as well.  This leaves one way in and out of the staging area.  Traffic along Fairfield is heavy – it is a major North-South artery.  The Fairfield Avenue and Baker Street intersection has always been a dangerous place to navigate.  People either disregard or are confused by the Yield sign when turning left onto Baker from Fairfield.  You add to this the speedway raceway block between Fairfield and Bass Street, I say speedway raceway because nothing is there, and you have a pretty dangerous area.  I cannot even imagine driving a fully-loaded semi truck and trying to make a left turn into the staging area from Fairfield across traffic.  The reverse is even more true – trying to make a right out of the staging area onto Fairfield.  This is even more dangerous because depending on the truck, you might need to encroach into the opposite lane to make the turn.

While we’re talking about traffic concerns in the area, let me also suggest that the City needs to look at the Baker and Ewing Street intersection.  This is another dangerous intersection where you really need to be paying attention.  People coming West on off Baker to turn onto Ewing seem to always be concerned about who has the right of way.  I would think that as long as you are turning right and stay in the right lane, you would be within your rights.  Same thing when turning left onto Ewing from East-bound Baker.  As long as you stay in the left lane, you should be fine.  But I’ve seen too many people cut others off by switching lanes immediately after their turn.  I believe the law says that you stay in your lane and follow it until you’re able to get a safe clearance to make the lane change.  Whatever the situation, the City needs to examine this intersection to make sure it’s configured properly and that nothing else can be done – especially if you’re going to have heavy traffic in the area when the ballpark opens.

Another point however is Brackenridge Street.  A recent letter appeared in the January 3, 2008 edition of the Journal Gazette by resident David Koonce:

Vehicles disregard one-way street

I live on West Brackenridge right by the construction area for Harrison Square and have been observing truck traffic around my neighborhood.  These drivers all seem to think they can drive in either direction on Brackenridge.  Unfortunately, Brackenridge is a one-way street going west, but I have seeen AEP, Graves, Verizon and a host of other company trucks completely disregard the traffic sign and drive east on Brackenridge.  I was standing on the corner of Ewing and Brackenridge waiting for the Citilink bus when a driver wanted to turn and go east on Brackenridge, and I waved to let him know that it is a one way and he scrunched up his face and basically would have run me over if I had not jumped out of the way.  It would be nice to see the Fort Wayne Police Department do something about this, because I know if I did that in my own vehicle I would get a ticket.

I know David personally, and in fact, ran into him in the very area he wrote about a few weeks after this had been published.  He’s not prone to exaggeration.  I personally have seen some pretty wild and dangerous driving while in that area as well.  Thinking back and examing photos I have taken in the area, there is no sign at that intersection of Ewing and Brackenridge to indicate it is a one-way only street.  This should be rectified immediately – it needs to be clearly marked.  I don’t think it was something torn down with last summer’s demolition – I don’t remember ever seeing one there. 

Getting back to the main issue, however, what can be done about the staging area and increased resulting traffic?  Well, one solution would be to find another staging area.  But there really is no other staging area to be had without having to traverse a distance which would add fuel costs to the project.  I think at this point, once the staging area becomes active and especially on days when the area will be seeing increased activity, a temporary intersection could be created at the turn off into the staging area.  This wouldn’t have to be anything fancy, a couple of stop lights similiar to what they use when shutting off one lane of a bridge for repairs.  Increased police presence in the area would also help especially in the residential area between Fairfield and Ewing on the West and East and Jefferson Boulevard and Baker Street on the North and South.  Perhaps even some electronic billboards advising motorists of potential hazards could be used on especially active days.  There are solutions here and I’m sure these issues have been thought out.  The lease goes before the City Council, perhaps as soon as this Tuesday, for approval.  Hopefully, the council members will ask these questions before approving the lease.

See also: Redevelopment Commission Meeting 1/31/2008

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