WARSAW — The urgency to celebrate a road opening was as apparent as the smell of asphalt behind the dignitaries standing along part of Commerce Drive in Warsaw.
As a ribbon of new pavement was melded into the ground just yards behind them, city officials and business representatives gathered at noon Wednesday, April 24, to cut a white ribbon in honor of the road improvement.
Rarely do so many officials gather to cut a ribbon in honor of the soon-to-be opening of a refurbished road, but this one carries more significance than most, officials said.
The eastern end of Commerce Drive, a frontage road that stretches from McDonald’s to a Marathon Station along US 30, had been riddled with massive potholes for years and regarded as one of the worst stretches of road for motorists in the city, mostly because it had not been maintained by the city.
Among the stores that depend on the road are Big R, Staples, Richard’s Restaurant, China Palace, Great Clips and H&R Block.
But years of complaints led to a cooperative effort by retailers who are part of Woodland Plaza to pool their money together to pay for an upgrade to the road that would pave the way for the city to consider taking the road into its maintenance program.
That transition is not officially complete, but city officials have watched the progress of the road work and will likely recommend the move within weeks.
The road was constructed nearly 30 years ago, but was not built to city specifications and not included in the city’s maintenance program.
Hitesh Patel, a spokesman for U.S. Management Corporation, of Fort Wayne, said it’s been a “long struggle” spanning nearly three years to line up financial support and get the plan in place, but said he thinks retailers will benefit from the improvement.
“I’m sure they’ll get a boost in business because they’re a lot of customers who may have been deterred from this area because of that road’s condition,” Patel said.
He estimated stakeholders contributed about $350,000 to help fund the work by Phend & Brown.
Patel said the arrangement was somewhat unique. “They believe in this location. They believe in this retail corridor and they want to see it work,” Patel said.
Officials gathered along the street where workers were installing another layer of pavement. Construction should be complete by the end of Thursday, weather permitting.