Months of work and years of planning ended today with the reopening Lafayette Boulevard in downtown South Bend.
It has been a half century since two-way streets have graced Lafayette, one of the main thoroughfares through downtown.
It’s an important artery that passes along what the city hopes will be revitalized former Studebaker buildings just south of downtown.
Four Winds Field, the city’s newly renovated minor league baseball stadium for the South Bend Cubs, is located on Lafayette just north of an elevated railroad track that divides the city’s near south side from downtown.
The city hopes to better connect the ball park — which just experienced a record breaking year in 2014 — with the rest of downtown.
The conversion from one-way to two-way is a big part of that.
Lafayette, Michigan and Main Streets all had one-way traffic and had synchronized traffic signals to improve the flow of traffic.
The result was that many motorists would treat these streets more like urban highways than pedestrian-friendly streets in the city’s dense urban core.
Speeds easily exceed 40 MPH, making it an unsafe stretch of road for pedestrians and bicyclists alike.
The conversion has been in the pipeline for years but was only fully funded with the support of Mayor Buttigieg, who has made it a priority of his administration to pursue a “Smart Streets” goal.
“Better streets attract more people and more activity to create a more vibrant city,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who announced his re-election bid on Tuesday, said in a statement. “Smart Streets is a vital component of economic development, contributing to a thriving downtown area that has helped drive South Bend’s comeback.”
The initiative aims to make better use of urban areas with an approach that favors multiple uses for public infrastructure.
Bike lanes, on-street parking, and streetscaping were all part of the Lafayette project.
The conversion from one-way to two-way will also have the effect of slowing down traffic, which will make the area more pedestrian-friendly and businesses more visible.
City officials tout the changes as a catalyst for future growth.
“The city’s Smart Streets initiative continues to create a better atmosphere for business and transportation of all kinds in the downtown area,” says Scott Ford, Executive Director of Community Investment. “These ongoing improvements create an environment more conducive to economic growth, cultural opportunities, and an enriched quality of life for all residents.”