Action taken today will bring two-way traffic back to a couple of downtown South Bend streets by the end of this year.
“This will be a long process that we’ll go through, but it’s exciting because we’ve been developing the plan, trying to get everything ready and now we’re finally at the stage where we’re going to start implementing some of it,” said Eric Horvath, South Bend’s Director of Public Works.
The days of one-way traffic on Lafayette and Williams Streets downtown are now officially numbered.
“We’re done with the construction documents, have had internal reviews and great conversations and now we’re ready to move forward with the conversion of the project,” said Jitin Kain with South Bend’s Department of Community Investment.
Along those lines, the city’s board of works today agreed to advertise for bids on the project. Those bids will be due on June 10th.
It’s hoped that the work will begin in July with two-way traffic restored sometime in early fall. “So it’s a combination of a few things, it’s repainting some of the lines, it’s taking some of the signals out and converting those into stop signs, adding some trees,” said Jitin Kain.
But the bigger picture goal is to improve the downtown business climate. “You’ll see a more pedestrian friendly environment on Williams and Lafayette,” said Kain. “It’s going to be a lot more friendly for people to walk and cross streets and that’s the hope we’re trying to see for all the downtown streets.”
Both streets (Lafayette and Williams) will narrow from thee lanes of one-way traffic, to one lane of two-way traffic, and a left turn lane. The 11 traffic lights in the corridor will be reduced to six, and five stop signs will be added to the mix.
“The width of the street did not allow for dedicated bike lanes so this will have a bike facility which will be a shared bike lane with motorists, it’s called a sharrow and so those sharrow markings will be throughout the corridor,” said Kain.
“Really, it’s trying to create a place that’s a little more vibrant and active,” said Horvath. “So hopefully you’ll go downtown and you’ll see people walking and biking and sitting out on sidewalk cafés.”
Bringing two-way traffic back to Lafayette and Williams is the easy part. The real challenge will be to do the same with the heavily travelled arteries of Main and Michigan.
Horvath says a proposed roundabout on Michigan near Leeper Park is just a few weeks away from advancing to the design stage, although construction won’t start until 2015.