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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Among sites of road work this year: Dupont Road and Interstate 69.


Associated Press
Indianapolis police discuss a blitz of fatal shootings in February. The city faces an alarming homicide rate.

Stay safe, avoid tickets: Big road projects coming

From dodging snow piles to dodging traffic cones, the months ahead will be challenging as millions of dollars in roadwork gets underway. But that’s a good thing, right?

One of those projects – widening Lafayette Center Road from the General Motors assembly plant to Roanoke – is an unexpected and welcome addition to the scheduled work, although it won’t reach the construction stage until spring 2016.

The $30 million project was approved for state funding last week, allowing for design work to begin. It’s been on local officials’ wish list for some time, but the cost was prohibitive for local budgets.

Dan Avery, executive director of the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council, said regional support made the difference, as Huntington County officials pushed for the Allen County project.

When finished, the road will provide safer, easier access from Interstate 469 to U.S. 24 in Roanoke.

Projects already in the works should have drivers on alert. The Indiana Department of Transportation designates next week as Work Zone Awareness Week, the ceremonial start to the construction season.

Motorists are reminded that speeding in a work zone carries the risk of fines of up to $1,000 for speeding and up to $5,000 for reckless driving. The death or injury of a highway worker can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and an eight-year prison sentence.

It’s motorists who are most at risk in work zones, however. Of 13 work-zone fatalities last year, all were drivers or passengers.

Northeast Indiana has five highway projects under way:

•Coliseum Boulevard in Fort Wayne, where travel lanes are being added between Parnell and Crescent avenues.

•Dupont Road in Allen County, where the “diverging diamond” interchange is being built at Interstate 69.

•Indiana 14 in Allen County, where lanes are being added between West Hamilton and Scott roads.

•Indiana 19 in Elkhart County, where lanes are being added.

•U.S. 20 in Elkhart County – another lane-addition project between County Road 17 and Ind. 15.

The state projects are in addition to the local work, including work on the Coliseum Boulevard bridge over the St. Joseph River.

The infrastructure repairs and improvements will require motorists’ patience, but we’re guessing that most will prefer construction delays to sleet, snow and ice.

Auction a win for historians

For return on investment, it’s tough to beat the Indiana Historical Society’s record with two sets of works by John James Audubon, the naturalist and painter.

“The Birds of America” and “Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America” brought a combined $3.77 million at a Sotheby’s New York auction this week. The first was bought in 1933 for $4,000, the second in 1951 for $900.

With proceeds from the sale, the historical society plans to acquire more Indiana-specific pieces for its collection. It lost out on a Civil War letter from a Hoosier soldier with the 28th United States Colored Troops regiment at an auction a year ago.

The Audubon sale will also allow the historical society to add archival storage space at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick History Center in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis homicides soaring

It’s little solace to the families affected by last year’s record-setting number of homicides in Fort Wayne, but the 44 deaths pale in comparison to the pace being set in Indianapolis. As of Wednesday, the city had recorded 41 homicides so far this year.

A death still under investigation was likely to go down as the Circle City’s eighth murder in a five-day period. The city’s troubling record has even drawn the attention of Chicago observers.

“Chicago’s national reputation as a murder-plagued city is well-documented, but a recent outbreak of violence in Indianapolis has been twice as deadly,” according to a story posted by CBS Chicago. “So far in 2014, there have been 41 murders in Indianapolis, putting the city on pace for more than 160. Through March, Chicago Police have recorded 62 murders for the year – the lowest first-quarter total since 1958.”

The report goes on to note that Indianapolis’ 124 homicides last year placed its murder rate at 17 per 100,000 residents, compared with 15 per 100,000 in Chicago, where 415 homicides were recorded last year.

Fort Wayne recorded no homicides in the first quarter of this year.