Holding On For Dear Life: Incline On Hillegas Road Causes Winter Headaches

By Jeff Neumeyer

February 6, 2014 Updated Feb 6, 2014 at 6:37 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- With the Winter Olympics firing up, a section of road on Fort Wayne's near west-side feels a little like a bobsled run when winter conditions are at their worst.

Highway officials are defending the situation, saying some nasty slipping and sliding can't be helped on one of the main north-south thoroughfares in town.

Video from a camera mounted on our news vehicle doesn't give you a true sense of how steep the incline is on Hillegas Road just north of Illinois.

But when you watch cars and trucks cruise down the hill, you realize travel here can be dicey.

“It’s crappy, lot of wrecks. Always slow," said Carrie Wyatt, who drives the roadway almost daily.

They had to close the stretch of road for a brief time back in early January because the icy conditions were so treacherous that cars had a tough time getting up and down safely.

When crews were building it, officials knew it was a steep grade, but because of what they're trying to cross over, they felt they had no choice.

Two sets of railroad track run east and west below, forcing the roadway higher above.

" You've got to give the railroad 22 feet of clearance in order to get over the top, and by the time you have structural members that are probably six feet deep and then, you know, a deck that's another foot thick or so, why, you get pretty far up in the air," said Allen County Highway Director Bill Hartman.

The grade dips lower from Jefferson Boulevard to old Illinois Road before starting back up.

Hartman says as far he knows, there was never serious consideration given to taking that dip out of the design.

Heading north, right about at the top of the hill, you cross the line from city to county jurisdiction, but an agreement calls for city crews to plow the pavement and bridge deck, and to decide when to spread ice clearing salt.

" It's an acceptable grade, like I say it's just a matter of the timing. It's a timing of getting material on there as to when..you know, when the slickness occurs. That's the trick, that's the trick everywhere," Hartman said.

This winter, many snow events have involved bone chilling cold temperatures that cut down on the effectiveness of road salt.

It means motorists driving on Hillegas numerous times have had to clutch the wheel and pass the courage test.

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