‘I can’t get there because of construction’: When work on Douglas, LaSalle & Main will be done

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 5:26 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The company that owns a parking garage that’s been shuttered for nearly five months says work is now underway to make the structure safe again.

But the closure at Main Street and Wayne Street in downtown South Bend is just one of three projects that could impact the city on Notre Dame game days.

Fans from across the country flock here — filling our hotels, restaurants, and shops. But this year, businesses are feeling threatened by a seemingly endless orange barrel season.

“Notre Dame home football weekend has a 20+ million dollar economic impact. Our businesses rely very heavily on people being able to easily get to them,” explains South Bend Regional Chamber President & CEO Jeff Rea.

The concern from business owners is caused by a trifecta of road closures:

None of the three projects are expected to be completed in time for Notre Dame football’s home opener on Sept. 2, which is causing concern for those who rely on the influx of Golden Dome fans to make ends meet.

“I use Notre Dame football as kind of like Black Friday for retailers. They wait all year for that to happen,” explains Rea. “If they miss even one of those seasons or one of those key weekends, it can mean a big difference on their bottom line.”

Downtown businesses are not only worried about traffic flow, but also a lack of parking as the garage on Main and Wayne remains closed as well.

“It’s Main Street — named that appropriately because it is the main street that runs through town, and you don’t want your Main Street closed,” says Rea.

Bradley Company operates the parking garage and Main and Wayne. They tell 16 Investigates that they started repairs on Aug. 21 with the hopes of opening a portion of the garage as soon as possible. But all repairs aren’t expected to be completed until Oct. 2.

At the same time, the Douglas Road closure continues to create headaches for local drivers — with one of the left turn lanes onto State Road 23 shut down, causing significant bottlenecks. Now, it could be an out-of-towners’ nightmare.

“Especially as traffic comes in from outside the area to be able to get them on exit 83, exit 77, or exit 72,” adds Rea. “Douglas is a really principal artery going to the east connecting to all those.”

The St. Joseph County Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Growth says they’re planning for work on Douglas Road to be done by mid-September. A project manager tells 16 Investigates they may miss the home opener, but hope to be ready for the next home game — and that the project will certainly be completed before Notre Dame takes on Ohio State on Sept. 23.

But on LaSalle Avenue, construction will be going on for much longer than that.

“It’s a little bit behind schedule but we still think they’ll be able to make up the time and get it done on time and it will be done this year,” says Eric Horvath, the director of public works for the city of South Bend.

Though a lot of the preliminary work is already completed, LaSalle will be down to one lane for the entirety of the project.

“Because of the room we need for the contractor to work safely we’re going to need to leave — we’ll never have two-way traffic until we’re completed with it in November,” explains Horvath.

Some business owners are allowing their employees to stagger their shift times to avoid getting caught in traffic. Jeff Rea tells us the business owners understand this type of work is needed for the city to progress, but they hope Notre Dame fans will excuse our dust.

“I think what businesses really hope is that we don’t get the reputation of it being really complicated to get there,” he says. “‘I can’t get there because of construction’ means somebody goes somewhere else, we don’t want them to get in the habit of going somewhere else.”

South Bend police will be routing traffic to and from the University of Notre Dame’s campus on game days. Officials say they will use Angela Boulevard between 933 and State Road 23 — it will be one-way heading toward campus for about two hours before kickoff. Angela will then be one-way heading away from campus at the end of the game. You can also find instruction to and from Notre Dame’s stadium by visiting their football gameday website.

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