SB business owners applaud two-way street plan

South Bend, Ind. The discussion continued over South Bend’s two-way streets initiative Thursday.

AECOM transportation engineer Ian Lockwood gave the latest updates to the “Smart Streets” plan, answering questions from South Bend residents during a presentation at the Century Center.

“We want the traffic control to change so that folks aren't just focused on when red lights go to turn green,” Lockwood said. “We would like them to be able to look around at the shops, at the people and be able to enjoy the downtown on their way through -- as opposed to the sort of video game experience that's out there today.”

This week residents learned that phase one of the plan has already been set in motion.

By the end of the year, both Lafayette Boulevard and William Street will narrow from thee lanes of one-way traffic, to one lane of two-way traffic, and a left turn lane.

Phases Two and Three include a roundabout near Memorial and the eventual transformation of heavily traveled arteries like Main and St. Joseph Streets back to two-way thoroughfares.

Many business owners in the audience applauded the plans.

“What’s being proposed here is going to be a tremendous improvement to the downtown,” said architect William Coleman. “This concept is tried and true, it's not based on trendy applications of what's hot currently. It’s actually a return to what an urban environment should be.”

But some audience members voiced concerns that a return to two-way traffic would also bring greater congestion during peak driving hours.

Lockwood said his firm has analyzed the proposed network based on traffic data supplied by the city.

“With all the normal analysis that you would do with this sort of level of planning, it seemed like everything would go fine,” Lockwood said.

Even so, he argued that a congested downtown is not necessarily a bad thing.

“You call it congested, I call it busy,” Lockwood said. “I think that's a sign of success. If the streets weren’t busy during the peak hours you're probably leaving something on the table. You're not getting enough social or economic exchange.”

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