MLK Bridge Opens Up Two Lanes to Downtown

By Maureen Mespell
By Scott Sarvay
By Rachel Martin

February 1, 2012 Updated Feb 2, 2012 at 12:08 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Two lanes of the Martin Luther King Bridge into downtown were opened just before noon on Wednesday.
It’s just the beginning. The hard part is finished, but there’s still much to be done before the Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge is complete. Crews opened two lanes beneath the bridge on Clinton St. leading into downtown around 11:00 Wednesday afternoon.
The MLK Bridge is made up of 16 steel arches that weigh 40 tons each. Construction began on Jan. 16, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, but City Spokesperson, Frank Suarez, says that was pure coincidence as is opening the bridge, unofficially, on the first day of Black History Month. Suarez says they planned to begin construction earlier, but flooding of the St. Mary’s river, high winds, and other weather issues created unsafe working conditions and the work was postponed.
“It was a nice thing that it did happen on that day because it is making people remember exactly that— Dr. King and the bridge,” Suarez said.
Fourth Street and one of the lanes on Clinton will remain closed as construction continues. Suarez says lanes closures will switch depending on construction around the bridge. As of Feb. 1, the far right lane of Clinton is closed. Superior and Harrison Streets have returned to normal traffic flow, but all other closures may not reopen until Feb. 2.
Suarez says the MLK Bridge will not only serve as a dedication to Dr. King, but also as a “gateway and showpiece into downtown Fort Wayne.” He says crews still have quite a bit of construction and restoration work yet to do. He says lighting will be added around the arches, and trees and greenery will be planted along the bridge.
“The other unique feature about this bridge is it has wide sidewalks, and 17 plaques on each side that have quotes from Dr. King from various speeches he’s made throughout his life. There are also some other words of encouragement that are carved into the railing,” he said. “And they’ll be benches mid-way through, right over the top of the river. So you’ll be able to sit there and reflect and look out at the river and downtown. We think people are going to enjoy that.”
Suarez says the bridge also connects to a safe path for pedestrians for access to the north side of the river. He says there could be more development plans for that area in the future.
Suarez says construction will not be complete until April, when the city plans to have a grand opening ceremony.

To see reactions and what Fort Wayne citizens think of the MLK Bridge so far, watch the video above.

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