FORT WAYNE – Despite the orange barrels, cones and lane shifts at Dupont Road and Interstate 69, hospitals in the area haven't reported major problems with emergency runs – yet.
The worst might be yet to come, with lane closures set to start Friday.
Coordination among the Indiana Department of Transportation, Lutheran Health Network and Parkview Health has meant people in need of urgent care can still get where they need to be, although it might be a little more stressful, officials said.
“Right now there is definitely an increase in traffic congestion, … but that's what you get with a construction project with lane restrictions,” Eric Clabaugh, public information manager for Parkview, said Tuesday.
Traffic has so far been slowed by lane shifts and surrounding work, but lane closures are scheduled to begin Friday.
The eastbound lane of Dupont Road will be down to one lane as construction workers remove a barrier wall and build a sidewalk, according to INDOT.
Also Friday, northbound and southbound lanes of the interstate will have one lane restricted and two lanes open in the area near Dupont Road.
The restrictions on the interstate are going to be in place until mid-September, INDOT said.
The work at the interchange will result in a diverging diamond, which uses traffic signals at each end to allow traffic to cross over to driving on the left side of the road through the intersection and make left turns without needing to wait for cross traffic.
INDOT expects the project to finish by late October.
Mike Gillespie, spokesman for Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, said the construction hasn't yet affected patient care or timely arrivals at the hospitals near the interstate.
Geoff Thomas, public relations coordinator for Lutheran, said alternate routes to the hospital help make sure patients aren't greatly affected by the construction.
He said Lutheran's drivers, who transport patients to other facilities, get frequent construction updates and can plan ahead for their routes.
Thomas said future lane closures could cause more problems but he felt INDOT was making closures in a way that would minimize the effects.
Clabaugh and Gillespie also said the Union Chapel Road exit just north of Dupont Road can often be an alternate route to help avoid or lessen the congestion at the construction site.
Currently, ambulances have more than one lane to navigate stopped traffic, but as lane restrictions increase, drivers could find themselves stopped with nowhere to go and a siren behind them.
Clabaugh said INDOT workers at the site have been attentive to approaching ambulances in the event that traffic needs to move earlier than planned.
Gillespie said drivers should always try to move to the right as much as possible for emergency vehicles, even when in a gridlocked situation.
If there's no room, he encouraged drivers to continue in the normal flow of traffic instead of trying to get out of the way and creating a worse situation.
“It causes a lot more problems than to just wait for the light to cycle,” he said.
Drivers should certainly not take it upon themselves to create a path, he said.
“They will find a way to get around you safely; … let the experts navigate the intersection,” Clabaugh said.