A closer look at downtown South Bend two-way streets proposal - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

A closer look at downtown South Bend two-way streets proposal

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A sneak peek at a new detailed plan that would change how drive and walk downtown.

We're talking about a two-way street proposal, one that aims to make downtown more business and pedestrian friendly.

The plans will be officially presented Thursday at a meeting open to the public.

"Our mission in downtown is to create vibrancy. We're trying to create a situation that attracts people and investment back to the downtown," says Ian Lockwood, a liveable transportation Engineer with AECOM.

The idea Lockwood and his team are trying to bring to downtown South Bend is a concept called "Smart Streets."

Lockwood says decades ago, cities made downtown streets one-way in order to speed up the flow of traffic, but he says it's an idea that did more harm than good.

"That tended to take value out of downtown and export it to the suburbs," says Lockwood.

Lockwood is offering a plan that includes making St. Joseph, Main, Lafayette and William Streets two-way.

St. Joseph will convert a number of traffic signals to roundabouts.


Those intersections include Western Avenue, Jefferson to the northeast of the Century Center, Marion, and Leeper Park.

The idea is to make downtown more accessible.

"The roundabout actually helps distribute traffic from one access way over a bridge to several network streets," says Lockwood.
 
Lockwood says converting to two-way streets frees up more sidewalk space, makes room for on-street parking and just makes the area more walkable.

Landscape Architect Andrew Sheppard says that's how the downtown can grow beyond just the west side of the St. Joe River.

Sheppard says the River should become the centerpiece of South Bend.

"Providing the connections with the downtown retail core with a lot of the new residential aspects that are happening over here on the east bank," says Sheppard.

Lockwood says the approach has been done in a number of cities with much success.

"Investing in your public realm is an investment that will leverage itself many, many times in terms of private investment and value," says Lockwood.

With approval, the project could get started as early as next summer with Lafayette and William Streets the first to go two-way. That's because those streets are under the city's jurisdiction.

The entire project could take up to ten years. Main and St. Joseph Streets are under the state's jurisdiction and would require extra negotiating for the project.

There will be a meeting Thursday, September 19th from 5:30 to 7:00pm in the Century Center Recital Room for the public to come out and ask questions and voice their concerns.

Lockwood hopes to have a cost estimate for the presentation.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has put $10 million is his 2014 budget for downtown thoroughfares. The Common Council votes on the budget in late October.

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