Even though the bridge spanning the St. Mary's River at U.S. 27 near downtown Fort Wayne bore an official designation as the Martin Luther King, Jr. bridge, a renovation of the span and the addition of decorative truss-like arches, inspirational inscriptions, signage and a plaque bearing the image of the revered civil rights leader in mid-2012 transformed the bridge into a gateway entrance to Fort Wayne and true memorial for Dr. King.
Issues like improving the bridge's appearance, minimizing the impact caused by the river current to the bridge and improving the bridge's functionality for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as vehicular traffic dominated the project planning discussions for the state's Department of Transportation.
The city of Fort Wayne, meanwhile, wanted a design that would make citizens more aware of the bridge's name and purpose as a memorial while creating a distinctive gateway to the downtown area.
Work started on the bridge during the summer of 2010, with the finished $8.8 million project's dedication happening in June, 2012.
We drove across the bridge as we entered Fort Wayne during our most recent visit there this past summer, and I was able to take a closer look at the span as we took a bicycle ride along the city's Rivergreenway Trail.
The trail runs under the bridge, and stopping to climb up a short staircase from the river took me to the bridge with its pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, decorative paving, interpretive signs and decorative lighting at street level.
The bridge was impressive enough during the day, but I'm hoping to see it again sometime during the evening as a system of 704 LED light fixtures requiring 14,000 feet of electrical wire allows the city to illuminate this landmark with lights in different color schemes and patterns. The bridge can sport red-white and blue lights on the Fourth of July, red and green lights in support of Fort Wayne's beloved Tin Caps baseball team or other arrangements to honor special events, holidays and seasons.
Dr. Derek King Sr., a nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., attended the bridge's 2012 dedication and noted that Fort Wayne's choice of a bridge to honor his uncle and his legacy was particularly appropriate as the city "dedicated a bridge to a bridge builder".
Want to learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Try checking out Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz or A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
© Dominique King 2015 All rights reserved