City construction of the Waynedale trails project is moving along at a good clip, even though some businesses along Bluffton Road are being impacted by the work.
The project is building trails along the east side of Bluffton Road, from Lower Huntington Road to West Foster Park, according to Frank Suarez, spokesperson for the city of Fort Wayne.
Once completed, the Waynedale paths will create a network that will tie into the city’s RiverGreenway system, which totals more than 66 miles of trails. There are currently almost 99 miles of paths, though not all are linked yet, Suarez said.
Current construction is working on about 1.5 miles of new trails in Waynedale, Suarez noted, which will bring the total regional trail distance to slightly more than 103 miles.
And while it may appear the work has switched sides from the east to west sides of Bluffton Road, Suarez firmly says this is not the case. The new sidewalk was built on the west side of Waynedale’s main drag, while the new trail is being installed on the east side.
“We built a five-foot sidewalk on the west side,” he said, “We are building a 10-foot trail on the east side. We are not switching sides.”
Still, some Bluffton Road businesses have seen effects from the Bluffton Road construction work ongoing to create the new trails.
Rasjan Fitzgerald, Kitchen Manager at Wings Etc. Grill & Pub, 6247 Bluffton Road, said the work temporarily blocked the restaurant’s main entrance, forcing customers to drive in from the side and rear entries of the eatery. Worse than that, though, the construction broke the establishment’s water main last week.
“It’s hurt us a lot,” Fitzgerald said, “Our main driveway was blocked, so people had to use the two side entrances – but at night, it’s hard to see where those are. We definitely noticed less people coming in.”
Fitzgerald said that with no running water, his business had to shut down for about four hours that day, likely costing them about $1,200 to $1,300 in revenue.
Other establishments have been less affected.
Linda, a clerk at the Lassus Handy Dandy said she hasn’t seen much of an impact in the three weeks since the construction began. “We’ve been staying pretty busy,” she remarked, even as city construction equipment groaned loudly outside the gas station-convenience store at 6111 Bluffton Road.
“We’ve not really had any problems so far,” said Steve Howerstine, of Low Bob’s Tobacco, located at 6227 Bluffton Road. “Most customers don’t even know what it is, or what it’s for.”
At Pappa John’s Pizza, 6233 Bluffton Road, General Manager John Dukarski said the pizza joint’s delivery drivers have just had to avoid the main entryway on Bluffton Road and use other accesses to motor the restaurant’s pies around Waynedale.
Dukarski said the city of Fort Wayne sent the business a letter to tell them what they would be doing with their parking lot egress. “They even came in and talked to the manager the day they started tearing up our lot,” he said.
But, the impact hasn’t been that great. “It really didn’t impact our business too much,” Dukarski said. “Drivers can just use the other entrances to get in.”
Regardless of the construction’s impact, Bluffton Road businesses seem to be weathering the storm.
“It hurt us a little,” said Fitzgerald, Kitchen Manager at Wings Etc. Grill & Pub, “but other than that, we’re here.”
Ultimately, the city is hoping the temporary trouble will be worth it. They have planned completion around November (weather permitting).
“Connectivity from neighborhoods and a large apartment complex to destinations like Foster Park, Rivergreenway, restaurants, businesses, etc. are the reason for this project,” Suarez said. “Providing a safe area for pedestrians and bicyclists to walk, run and ride bikes safely – because it’s separated from vehicular traffic. The trail provides a recreational opportunity, especially since it connects to the park and other trails.”