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Frank Gray

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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Ken Johns’ home in the 2400 block of Ardmore Avenue shows the scars from early Saturday, when a Fort Wayne police officer lost control of his cruiser and ended up on Johns’ property.

Ardmore widening causing more harm than good?

Ken Johns has never been happy with the way the widening of Ardmore Avenue turned out.

He said the city first approached him in 1997, asking for additional right of way to do utility work. No utility work was done, he said, but a few years later the widening of Ardmore began.

I first met Johns while that project was under way. He complained that the new four-lane road practically encroached on his front porch.

By then, though, the project was a done deal, and today, Johns’ house is one of a cluster of homes in the 2400 block of Ardmore that sits just a few feet from the edge of the road.

“I get comments to this day,” Johns said, especially from visitors when they see how close his house is to the road.

The problem with the road, in part, Johns said, is that though the speed limit is 30 mph, no one goes 30. Standing in his driveway Monday morning, traffic blew past at what appeared to be at least 40 mph, often faster.

That may be an irritant, but there are other problems with the road, he said. A house about three doors to the north has lost its mailbox numerous times, he said.

Meanwhile, there have been other wrecks in the past few years.

One winter day a couple of years ago, a car traveling northbound on Ardmore – along a wide, straight stretch – hit a curb and flipped and landed in a cluster of trees across the street from his house.

Another time, a southbound car hit a curb and flew off the road, landing in the lot next door, Johns said.

Then, early Saturday morning, a police car making an emergency run northbound on Ardmore began to bounce and fishtail after hitting a low spot on Ardmore, skidded across Ardmore, jumped a curb, slid across the grass on the lot next to Johns’ house, skidded across his driveway and jumped another curb, finally coming to a halt just inches from Johns’ house.

Southbound Ardmore has some small doglegs designed, apparently, to slow traffic a little bit, Johns said.

“That’s the strange part,” Johns said. “Northbound shouldn’t have any problems.” It’s wide and straight.

Johns said the city’s position has been that there is no threat because the speed limit is only 30 mph.

“No one goes 30 mph,” he said. “Can you blame them? You drive for road conditions,” and the smooth, relatively straight four-land road just begs people to step on the gas.

Johns once had an opportunity to take a buyout from the city. He was offered $57,500 for the property, but that didn’t come close to the money he had spent on the house putting in two new basement walls, new wiring, all kinds of other improvements, he said.

That offer expired about a year and a half ago, so Johns remains in his home.

The rash of accidents near Johns’ home is reminiscent of accidents that happened on Lima Road at Edgewood Avenue in the 1980s. The first crash killed a resident, Helen Rose Dugan. The same house was hit again just months later.

The Lima Road case, though, involved intoxicated drivers going too fast and missing a turn at an intersection.

That’s what’s so odd about Johns’ experience. There are no curves or corners to miss.

If you do go off the road, though, you don’t have to travel far to reach Johns’ house.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter (@FrankGrayJG).

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