Downtown South Bend traffic lights could be removed

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A "lights out" proposition seems to be catching the business community by surprise in downtown South Bend.

The South Bend Division of Streets and Sewers has put some new signs in place on traffic signals along Michigan Street warning that those signals are “under study for removal.”

The signs have gone up where Michigan Street intersects Jefferson Boulevard and Washington Street.

The affected area basically amounts to restaurant row. There are 12 restaurants in the two-block section of Michigan in question.

“We were a little to see [the signs] up yesterday, considering how much traffic comes through here and how much pedestrian traffic,” Bruno’s Pizza's Steve Sdaday said. “I don't know if it's a good idea.”

The whole idea came up so "freaky fast" that even Jimmy John’s bicycle delivery worker Dan Wilde wasn’t sure what to think.

“A stop sign would keep the flow of traffic going so it would probably be, it would get less backed up, which could be beneficial, but also, safety is a concern," he said. "A light, people are less apt to run a light than they are to run a stop sign. And there’s a lot of pedestrians around.”

A city spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that a switch to four-way stop signs would be the potential alternative.

“Because a four-way stop confuses the drivers, there’s a lot of congestion within this street, and it’s not really a good idea,” restaurant customer Latina Dodson insisted.

For others, pedestrian concerns take a back seat to parking concerns.

“Sounds a little tricky, and then it’s already hard when you come here and you park and you're trying to get in and out with the flow of traffic, and so when the light turns red, it’s your opportunity to get out,” restaurant customer Rain Adams said.

The city has studied the possible removal of traffic lights at other intersections on Michigan Street in the past and wound up keeping those signals.

“I’m not sure because I don’t have a lot of information, but I’m all for upgrading, making sure we’re doing the best for downtown,” Chicory Café owner Phil Schreiber said. “I sit at these lights for a long time a lot of times. I can see why they want to study it and figure out a better way to do it.”

Schreiber said he would love to have a roundabout but added there’s probably not room for one.