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Sewer work to scramble downtown driving

FORT WAYNE – Driving downtown is about to get a lot more interesting.

As part of a massive storm-sewer project, roads will be under construction for eight months in an area from Harrison Street on the east to Broadway on the west and from Wayne Street on the south to the St. Marys River on the north – about half of the downtown area.

The fun begins Monday, when the two west lanes on Ewing Street will be closed from Washington Boulevard to Main Street. The lane restrictions will run through the intersection of Berry Street, closing Berry between Ewing and Fairfield Avenue. The far-east lane on Ewing will remain open, but Pearl Street between Ewing and Fairfield will be closed.

This configuration will be in place for about two weeks, and then other streets will be closed. At some time, Fairfield Avenue will be closed between Wayne and Superior streets. That will require making Ewing Street a temporary two-way street, just as Fairfield was in 2011 when Ewing was closed for the first part of this project. Because of the traffic disruption, the city’s agreement with contractor API Construction requires Fairfield to reopen by Nov. 15.

The project builds upon an earlier one that built a massive new storm sewer trunk line down Ewing Street, from Brackenridge Street to the river. This project – called the Ewing Street East-West Storm Sewer – will build branches on that trunk, carrying storm sewage down Berry, Main and Pearl streets to the trunk line under Ewing, which will take it to the river.

The sewers downtown are combined sewers, meaning they carry both sanitary sewage and stormwater from street drains. During heavy rains, stormwater overwhelms the system, washing millions of gallons of sanitary sewage into the rivers.

This project will install new dedicated storm sewer lines, so street drains that currently go into the combined system will instead go to the storm-only system where it can be safely carried to the river without pollution. When complete, it will take the rainwater from about 30 acres of hard surface, reducing the amount of sewage overflow into the rivers by almost 7 million gallons a year, officials said.

Traffic will also be disrupted when crews install storm-sewer pipes on Main Street between Harrison and Webster and between Fairfield and Broadway.

The project is expected to be substantially complete in April and finished by July 1.