April 10, 2023 - Mayor Tom Henry joined neighborhood leaders and Fort Wayne City Council members today, amplifying his longstanding commitment to strengthening neighborhoods through infrastructure investments.
The Mayor revealed a transformative $135 million worth of water, sewer and stormwater improvements throughout 2023 — the largest yearly investment in City Utilities’ history. Over the past 10 years, over $1 billion in capital improvement investments have been made by the utility in our community.
The resources will be used to replace aging infrastructure, increase capacity in our growing community, and protect our rivers and the environment. This level of activity is already making for a high-intensity construction season.
"Our continued commitment to investing in neighborhood infrastructure is critical to Fort Wayne's current and future success," said Mayor Henry. "City Utilities is making a lasting and meaningful difference throughout our neighborhoods and community. The water, sewer and stormwater work play a significant role in our overall quality of life and positions Fort Wayne for new economic development opportunities to grow our City and make it more attractive for families and businesses to move here.”
"Our investments in utility infrastructure are essential to our residents, schools, businesses and the region. Families rely on our high-quality water and sewer services. City Utilities services are a primary catalyst to economic development, helping ensure good jobs for our residents and the vitality of our entire area." said Kumar Menon, Director of City Utilities. "This year's investment of $135 million is significant, bringing us to more than $1 billion over the past ten years. With the support of Mayor Henry and the City Council, we are making our community stronger and more competitive."
On track to meet its completion goal, City Utilities enters Year 16 of the 18-year Consent Decree and Long-Term Control Plan. The plan focuses on protecting our rivers and neighborhoods from combined sewer overflows (stormwater and sewage) to basement back-ups.
This year's benchmarks include consolidation sewer projects already underway in two locations on Superior Street, Brown Street and Camp Allen. These consolidation sewers will take combined sewage that otherwise would dump into our rivers during wet weather events and instead transport it through a drop shaft 200 feet down connecting to the deep-rock tunnel, officially known as the Three Rivers Protection and Overflow Reduction Tunnel (3RPORT). When operational at the end of the 18-year plan, the tunnel will convey the overflows to the sewer treatment plant.
Later this year, we will take bids for the final Long-Term Control Plan projects to connect to the tunnel: consolidation sewers along the St. Marys River, closer to Foster Park. These consolidation sewers will pick up combined sewage that currently overflows in multiple places along the St. Marys. Bidding these last projects in the 18-year Long-Term Control Plan is a major benchmark in this pivotal communitywide initiative.
"Taking on an 18-year plan was daunting. But the tremendous support of our residents has encouraged us every step of the way. Protecting our neighborhoods and rivers is a shared community commitment," said Deputy Director of Engineering Matthew Wirtz. "Entering year 16 of the plan, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the benefits of increased capacity and treatment capabilities are already apparent."
The Foster Park project involves a new pump station and a consolidation sewer pipe to intercept sewer overflows from the St. Marys River. When finished and connected to the tunnel, the project will keep 27 million gallons of combined sewage out of the river annually.
Beyond the tunnel, 10 miles of lining to extend the life of sewer pipes for 75-100 years will take place in several southeast and south-central neighborhoods. Additionally, projects to increase capacity will occur throughout the community. Stormwater and drainage improvements are underway on Decatur Road, Pierson Drain, and the wetland near Hessen Cassel Road.
Of equal importance to the sewer and stormwater projects, water utility investments are also taking place this year across the community.
2023's plans include constructing more than nine miles of new water main in the Anthony/McKinnie area and the Forest Park, Glenwood Park, and Wildwood Park neighborhoods. These three areas have experienced more than 200 water main breaks over the last 15 years.
The new mains are part of its commitment to replace 70 miles of aging water infrastructure in five years. Expanding the distribution system will occur with water main extensions in Covington Dells, along Laugh Road, and near Auburn and Wallen Roads.
Work to directly help residents will continue with the Lead Service Line Replacement effort. The program assists residents with older homes in replacing their private lead water lines. More than $11 million has been secured to help reduce the change-out costs for those living in some of our lower-income areas.
Hand in hand with City Utilities' aggressive construction work is its dedication to the City's environmental objectives. Reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions continue with the innovative $8 million investment in floatable solar panels on our ponds. This effort will reduce the costs of our electric bill at both filtration and wastewater plants and help keep customer rates down.
Innovation is a driving force within City Utilities. The search for alternative power sources moves forward this year with the Grease Co-Op program. It will take fats, oils, grease and cooking by-products from restaurants to the Water Pollution Control Plant to be used for additional power generation.
While a record investment will keep the Utility busy this year, our partnership with the non-profit group Friends of the Rivers to keep our rivers free from trash, debris and pesticides will continue. Clean Drains Fort Wayne enters its third year with 2023 aimed at connecting directly with us in our neighborhoods to help keep our streets and our storm drains free of pollution.
Strengthening neighborhoods by improving our water delivery and sewer and stormwater collection systems, protecting our rivers, and generating power from waste, City Utilities' work, while often underground, will be highly visible throughout 2023. Our community pledge to support public health, public safety, economic development, and the environment is renewed every day.