There’s only one sure way to find out if a return to two-way traffic in downtown South Bend is in the works.
Next week, the fate of the Smart Streets proposal will be decided by the South Bend Common Council as it wraps up work on the 2014 budget.
When the City of South Bend put the city owned LaSalle Hotel building up for bid, four separate firms responded. Much of the interest was apparently sparked by the prospects of a return to two-way traffic on St. Joseph Street.
“At least two of the proposals spoke specifically to restoring the traffic patterns around the LaSalle as an important component for its rehabilitation,” said Executive Director Scot Ford with the South Bend Community Investment Department.
Soon the administration will find out if more than half of the members of the South Bend Common Council are as excited about the proposed change.
“Well, I think they have an opportunity to make a decision that's great for south bend,” said Ford.
Specifically, the council is being asked to restore two-way traffic on Lafayette and William Streets downtown, and to pay for planning to do the same on Michigan and St. Joseph Streets.
“I am not against the downtown being done, but not at this time,” said 6th District Common Councilman Oliver Davis. “I’m ready to be supportive of issues that involve helping the corridors on Western Avenue and on Lincolnway.”
Councilman Davis says the Western Ave. and Lincolnway corridors are “in need of a lot of repair” and haven’t been worked on by the city in some time.
The public debate over a return to two-way traffic essentially began in August. Some feel a few more trips around the block are necessary before a final decision is made.
“I do think that there needs to be more discussion, more detailed discussion with the actual facts and figures, the cost per block, the cost per intersection,” said South Bend 3rd District Council Representative Valerie Schey. “For the council to support an $11.4 million funding request when the week after that the council will be meeting to talk about proposed sewer rate increases for the residents just is a tough pill to swallow.”
A proposed roundabout in Leeper Park is also part of the Smart Streets proposal, but not a part that the council has control over—since TIF funds would be used.
The council is being asked to approve $1 million worth of work on Bartlett Street where a roundabout would likely be located.
The council has two budget meetings scheduled next week: On Monday and Wednesday nights.