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Does expensive project need extravagant dedication?

Vehicles, people better used elsewhere, County Councilman says

Saturday, October 27, 2012 - 8:28 am

The most expensive local road project in years will open next week, but at least one of the invited dignitaries thinks the ceremony should be a little less extravagant.

“I don't want to sound petty, but in the private sector personnel who have that much free time on their hands get sent home,” Allen County Councilman Paul Moss said, referring to the planned parade of public-safety vehicles from eight agencies that will greet the completion of the extension of Maplecrest Road from Lake Avenue south across the Maumee River to Indiana 930 -- vehicles and personnel Moss said could be better utilized elsewhere.

At a cost of more than $31 million, the project is expected to create a north-south thoroughfare on Fort Wayne's east side that will improve traffic flow and increase economic activity. Under construction for more than two years and planned for decades before that, the project will also improve public safety by allowing emergency vehicles to bypass busy railroad tracks near New Haven.

As such, some officials say the participation of vehicles from the State Police; Allen County, Fort Wayne and New Haven police; Fort Wayne and New Haven fire departments; and Fort Wayne and New Haven ambulance services is appropriate – especially since the city, county and New Haven all participated in the 1.5-mile project.

“But it seems excessive to me,” Moss said, noting that County Council recently completed budget hearings that included Sheriff Ken Fries' appeal for more funds. “Just cut the ribbon and be done.”

The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday. After the ribbon is cut, employees of Do it Best – a hardware wholesaler whose headquarters is nearby – will release balloons and a Norfolk Southern train will blow its whistle, followed by the parade. Various local, state, federal and Do it Best officials will speak.

The public is invited, and free trolley rides will be available to tour the entire stretch of Maplecrest after the ribbon-cutting. Members of the public should park on the Nelson Road on-ramp, because access will not be allowed from Indiana 930.

The road is expected to open for public use by 3 p.m. Tuesday.