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Works board advances downtown sewer project on 7 streets

– Traffic will crawl. Road surfaces will be uncertain. Entire lanes will disappear.

No, we’re not talking about more snow – we’re talking about construction planned for this summer.

In addition to the reconfiguration of the Interstate 69 interchange at Dupont Road/Indiana 1 and in addition to the $24 million worth of road projects planned throughout the city, Fort Wayne’s project to build storm sewers downtown will continue.

Board of Public Works members on Wednesday approved moving forward with the next phase of a project that will install new storm sewers under seven downtown streets, including Jefferson and Washington boulevards.

The project began a few years ago with the installation of a massive storm sewer trunk line down Ewing Street, from Brackenridge Street to the river. This phase – called the Ewing Street East-West Storm Sewer – will build branches on that trunk, carrying stormwater down east-west streets to the line under Ewing and on to the river.

An earlier phase last fall installed pipe under Berry, Main and Pearl streets, forcing the closure of Main Street and turning Ewing into a two-way street for several weeks.

That phase is largely done, though crews will be back in the spring to install permanent asphalt in places where the streets were patched in December.

The next phase will make driving downtown just as bad – or maybe worse.

Jonathan Ondracek, a City Utilities engineer, said that in addition to installing pipe under Jefferson and Washington boulevards, crews will tear up Fairfield, Baker, Harrison, Fulton and Webster streets.

Construction is expected to start in April and be complete by January.

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

These projects will install dedicated storm sewer lines, so street drains that go into the current system will instead go to the storm-only system, where stormwater can be safely carried to the river without causing pollution.

When complete, the system will carry the rainwater from about 30 acres of hard surface, reducing sewage overflow into the rivers by up to 8 million gallons a year, Ondracek said.

Board members also approved a contract with A&Z Engineering for the project to widen Maplecrest Road between State Boulevard and Stellhorn Road. The federal government will pay 80 percent of the $1.1 million preliminary design cost.

City Engineer Shan Gunawardena said the design of this section will be the same as the design for the section between Lake Avenue and State, which will feature boulevards, street trees and design elements to slow traffic through the residential area.

The section between Lake and State will begin construction this spring, and officials hope State to Stellhorn will be under construction in 2015.

Also on Wednesday, the Board of Stormwater Management approved a $421,982 contract with Crosby Excavating for stormwater improvements in the Ferndale neighborhood to prevent flooding there.