Originally printed in the Journal Gazette, March 4, 2017.
I continue to be encouraged by the momentum and investments the city is experiencing. Our downtown is thriving, neighborhoods are growing and we’re seeing a positive business climate with job growth and expansion projects.
To continue to see successes, we can’t stop. We must be committed to moving forward in the right direction to make Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana a point of destination.
One of the ways we’ll be able to see continued momentum is by investing in neighborhood infrastructure improvements, one of the city’s top priorities. We recognize we must improve the condition of our streets and roads to keep and attract residents, businesses and jobs.
We’ve been proactive in our approach and want to continue to be. Between 2014 and the end of this year’s construction season, the city will have invested $100 million in neighborhood improvements, including repairs and upgrades to streets, roads, sidewalks, curbs, ramps and street lighting.
To continue the progress we’ve made, we must have long-term revenue streams. The need to invest in our neighborhoods, as well as fix other roads running through nearby cities and towns and the entire state remains.
The Local Technical Assistance Program at Purdue University estimates that local governments need nearly $1 billion annually to maintain streets, roads and bridges. The state’s highway maintenance needs exceed those of local governments. When maintenance needs go unmet, projects transform into rebuilding at a far greater cost.
Last year, the General Assembly provided some short-term tools for repairing the state’s infrastructure until a longer, more sustainable fix could be designed. For instance, the General Assembly established the Community Crossings program, a local matching grant for cities, towns and counties to use for vital road maintenance projects.
In our area, Fort Wayne, New Haven and Allen County each received the maximum award of $1 million. Huntertown and Leo-Cedarville also received funding. Each local government was required to match these dollars one to one.
Fort Wayne used the funds for the second phase of the North Clinton Street resurfacing project between Colony Drive and Jacobs Creek. This grant program provided flexibility to speed up a project that normally would have taken several years to complete.
The General Assembly also provided a one-time distribution of local option income tax revenue that had been held in Indianapolis. The city used these funds to match the Community Crossings grant award and put it toward the North Clinton enhancement as well. Without these funds and the proceeds of an infrastructure bond, the city’s investment for next year and the years after aren’t likely to be quite as high.
This year, the Indiana House has presented a comprehensive, long-term road funding bill that offers data-driven solutions for maintaining Indiana’s road infrastructure network. In part, it refines the Community Crossings grant program, decreasing the local match from 50 percent to 20 percent, which could allow for more neighborhood projects to be completed at the local level.
As leaders, we’re called upon to make difficult decisions. Now is the time for a concerted effort to collectively support a sustainable plan to meet infrastructure needs now and tomorrow. Neighborhood infrastructure investments make our community safer, more vibrant and more attractive to families and businesses. Quality-of-place amenities, which include having a viable infrastructure network that’s maintained and enhanced, are critical to the current and future success of our city, region and state. That is why I support a long-term funding solution for our roads and am optimistic the General Assembly will, too.
Mayor Tom Henry, Fort Wayne