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Maplecrest Road extension helps keep diverse manufacturing, economic base

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 12:01 am

Years ago one of my sister Nancy’s friends took her driving exam at the then-Grabill License Branch.

The instructor told her to head out of town for some country driving. She got lost.

He flunked her on the principle that anybody who could get lost in Grabill didn’t deserve to drive. Grabill has no north-south exit: only east-west.

It is one thing to have no clear north-south option in Grabill but quite another on the east side of Fort Wayne. Driving southeast along what was known as our glamorous “by-pass” (e.g. Coliseum Boulevard or 930) ran from what now might be called “Strip Club Corner” (33-30 junction) to the historic International Harvester tower on the east-south comes to rather abrupt halt.

The west side of Fort Wayne was fixed with the connection of Hillegas Road to Ardmore Avenue, and then Ardmore to the Fort Wayne International Airport. But the far more populous east side had no such connector. You have to go a long way on Lake Avenue to turn south into New Haven, which cuts part of that city from itself.

In the highway authorization bill, the largest congressional earmark bill that is theoretically passed every five years, I was told that I had $14 million to designate for my region (beyond interstate highway construction or projects of “national priority” such as I-69 extended south, which also impacted us directly).

Allen County Commissioner Linda Bloom led an aggressive lobbying effort to extend Maplecrest Road as an eastern connector. It would be expensive because of the cost of building bridges over a long area. New Haven Mayor Terry MacDonald and the City Council wanted to connect their city. Economically important Central States Enterprises depends upon train cars, but when trains block the main intersection chaos can reign in New Haven, including for police, fire and school bus services.

First drafts of the bridges cut the headquarters property of the Do It Best Corporation but gave no access ramp. This was no minor problem. Most people do not realize that the Do It Best Corporation is the largest privately held corporation based in the state of Indiana. Everyone talks about jobs: jobs come from companies. If elected officials say they will deliver jobs, they need to accommodate those who create them. So I said simply, no project until Do It Best was happy.

Linda and the commissioners had to add some cost, but then I delivered $11 million of our tax dollars back to our area, consolidating most of the designated dollars into one project. They worked with others to leverage this into a much larger combined package.

On Friday we will cut the ribbon on a project finally linking our area. And we did “do it best” by providing access not only to Indiana’s largest privately held company but to an underdeveloped zone that now has additional potential to grow.

This is another vital transportation link that helps keep a diverse manufacturing and economic base unlike most declining industrial areas.