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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, July 25, 2019 1:00 am

Study reveals safer options for N. Anthony Boulevard

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

North Anthony Boulevard is about to get a face-lift.

The heavily traveled, mixed-use corridor on Fort Wayne's north side has been a source of frustration for neighborhood residents for some time. They say they've witnessed crashes, speeding, improper passing and other problems they link to increasing traffic and the road's design.

This week, the city released preliminary findings of a study that begins to tackle traffic calming and pedestrian and cyclist safety – with some measures likely to begin in the next few weeks.

The North Anthony Boulevard Multimodal Corridor Plan for the stretch of the boulevard from East Wayne Street to just north of Crescent Avenue says the initial improvements will come in two phases.

The first phase includes resurfacing 1.6 miles of the boulevard between East State Boulevard and Lake Avenue. Then, the roadway will get a double yellow line stripe in the middle and a solid white stripe designating the current parking areas.

Also added will be clearly marked pedestrian crosswalks at stoplights and piano-key-style crosswalks at Delaware, Forest and Dodge avenues.

The speed limit will be lowered from 35 to 30 miles per hour.

Sarah Warsco, president of the North Anthony Area Association, said the study, presented to neighbors Monday night, grew out neighborhood concerns several years ago about a proposal to add bike lanes to the boulevard.

Neighbors thought the lanes could be unsafe, and the city agreed to explore alternatives, she said.

“A major concern was the speed that people go driving the street,” Warsco said. That, plus people who are turning into side streets, shopping centers and driveways, created hazards, she said.

The width of the roadway also has led drivers to think it is four lanes, when it is only two. Drivers frequently hit parked cars, she said.

“Every Sunday morning, there seems to be a (parked) car that has been sideswiped,” she said.

The study bore out neighbors' observations, finding 347 crashes along the boulevard from Wayne Street to just beyond Crescent Avenue between 2015 and 2017, with an average of more than 34 injuries per year.

The highest number of crashes occurred at addresses between signalized intersections – 45%, “a much higher proportion than would be expected,” the study states. The percent occurring between all intersections, 24%, is more than twice the national average of 11%.

State Boulevard had the highest number of crashes of the three intersections with traffic lights – 77, or 22%, with 24 injuries. Most were rear-end collisions.

Ninety percent of all boulevard crashes were found related to excess speed or lane delineation – “making those priority issues to be addressed,” the report says. The report does not include the cost of the improvements.

Further down the line could come temporary curb extensions at critical pedestrian intersections, especially those used by children walking to schools, to reduce improper lane usage, passing and turning, said John Perlich, spokesman for Mayor Tom Henry, in an email.

The city's community development and public works departments “will continue to monitor improvements to the street,” Perlich said.

Warsco said eventually there could be sidewalk widening and an off-street bike trail along one side of the boulevard.

“It's one of those dream things we hope will happen. But it's not in the current budget. There's no funding,” she said.

Neighbors reacted positively to the immediate plans because current on-street parking does not appear reduced, Warsco said.

The boulevard is a major connector to Ivy Tech and Purdue Fort Wayne, as well as the main artery of a reviving commercial corridor north of State, so it is important not just to the neighborhood but to many residents of Fort Wayne, Warsco said.

“We just want to keep it safer,” she said.

rsalter@jg.net