Through a grant from Indiana AARP the ATC worked with local business owners to explore solutions to a really tricky problem. At the intersection of Columbia Avenue and St. Joe River Blvd. two trail networks, residential housing, commercial retail buildings and a whole lot of car collide. Getting around is a very tricky thing no matter what mode of travel you’re using.
The best solution was to experiment with slowing cars down through proven “traffic calming” techniques. In other words, we added a bunch of neat, temporary pieces that help motorists feel comfortable driving more slowly, and pedestrians more confident about getting around the intersection.
With help from Texas based firm, Team Better Block, advocates worked with city officials on a plan that would narrow road lanes, create a wide biking and walking lane, demonstrate rain-gardens and create a couple street murals.
During the installation weekend neighborhood residents took the opportunity to invite the community to a block party that included live music, games, food trucks, and a pop up art show.
In all, the project was a huge success. Motorists slowed down and pedestrians felt more safe in an uncomfortable area. Many of the temporary structures (which were to be removed after the project) are still in place today. Thanks to the City’s Traffic Engineering Department the neighborhood and city are working collaboratively to identify long-term changes to this area.
AARP How to Build a Better Block: https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/getting-around/info-2018/build-a-better-block.html
AARP Promo Video on Columbia Better Block: https://videos.aarp.org/detail/video/5714419211001/columbia-avenue-better-block-challenge-%E2%80%94-aarp
Team Better Block, Columbia Ave Project: https://teambetterblock.com/Columbia-Avenue
UPDATE: Long-Term Improvements Arrive
In the fall of 2020 the ATC got a surprise notice from the City of Fort Wayne’s Traffic Engineering Department. Three years after the experiment on Columbia Ave. and St. Joe Blvd. the city has begun making long-term changes to the intersection and roads. Three new bike lanes were installed along Columbia Ave., Lake Ave., and St. Joe Blvd.
These changes were made independently of the ATC but we’d like to think we, and the neighborhood played a role in identifying opportunities for slowing traffic, and improving walk-ability and bike-ability.
The ATC is deeply grateful to the City of Fort Wayne and its Traffic Engineering Department for their forward thinking and willingness to adapt. Great things are happening in our city and we’re excited to be a part of it.