FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The northbound lane of Old Mill Road, near Foster Park, reopened to traffic on Saturday. It was a welcome sight to residents of the Foster Park and Southwood Park neighborhoods, as well as drivers who use Old Mill on a regular basis.
The closure between Rudisill Blvd. and West Foster Parkway began on May 31. The northbound lane reopening met Fort Wayne City Utilities’ estimated closure of around four months.
Michael Kiester, the Manager of Construction and Engineering for City Utilities, said they hope to have the southbound lane open soon.
The closure was due to construction equipment that had to be placed either partially or completely in the street, plus large trucks coming in and out of the construction site for the work being done at Foster Park.
Kiester told WANE 15 that the closure had to happen for the safety of the construction workers, drivers, and anyone walking and biking in the area.
While Old Mill Road will be fully open again soon with no long-term closures expected, the work being done at Foster Park is expected to last another year and a half to two years.
It’s work that’s been going on for several years. Residents of the area and visitors of Foster Park have been greeted by the sound of construction, large trucks and equipment, and a large crane for years.
That’s something Kiester said they’re cognizant of.
“We really are concerned about the neighbors. We listen to them. I want them to know we do listen to concerns and we try to do the best that we can to work with the contractors, and just managing their concerns with safety,” he said.
So, what’s being done?
It’s all related to the underground tunnel that will limit sewage that flows into Fort Wayne’s rivers. It’s an 18-year plan Fort Wayne City Utilities started as part of a federally mandated consent decree that ends at the end of 2025.
The hope is for the tunnel to be activated in the middle of 2025.
At Foster Park, near the intersection of Old Mill Road and Rudisill Blvd., a large drop shaft is being built to divert sewage to the tunnel rather than to the rivers.
Work started four to five years ago before the boring machine digging the tunnel made its way to that part of town.
On Monday, WANE 15 got a look inside the drop shaft as concrete was being poured for a base slab at the bottom.
According to Kiester, that particular drop shaft is extremely important for keeping sewage from dumping into the St. Marys River.
“It’s critical at this location, at the end of Rudisill, because our two largest outfalls of combined sewage overflows actually come down Rudisill and dump into the river right here,” Kiester said. “So, this will probably have the largest impact of any single site on the tunnel alignment.”
As the drop shaft is prepared, the next step is to build a line that will connect it to sewage coming from the Indian Village and Woodhurst neighborhoods.
So, while the road will be open, the work isn’t going to be stopping any time soon.
Kiester said they appreciate the patience of residents and he hopes they see the value in the work being done.
“On our side, we’re very deep construction. We’re 40 feet-plus in the ground. We’re digging right next to the river. [There’s] High water tables, sandy soils down there. So, it’s huge construction. We know it’s going to take a lot of time, but eventually, the benefits will be well worth it here,” Kiester explained.
Various photos from the construction process courtesy of Fort Wayne City Utilities: