Smart Streets grand opening Friday

Smart Streets is set to have a grand opening Friday. // WSBT 22 photo

The grand opening of Smart Streets in downtown South Bend is Friday.

The rehabilitation project has been in the works since 2013.

The goal of this initiative was to create safer and more appealing streets for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

City leaders say the old one-way streets with many lanes created a "highway feel," and it was detrimental to pedestrians. But now, they say streetscape changes will benefit all who come downtown.

New curbs, sidewalks, streetlights and trees now line some of the main arteries of downtown. City leaders say these new additions make the downtown area more accessible and appealing for business.

They says it was important to think about streets differently than just a way to carry traffic.

Now, cyclists have their own lane on the sidewalk and so do pedestrians.

One of the biggest changes for vehicles, as many who drive through the city have already noticed, is changing some one-way streets to two-way streets, and multiple roundabouts were added.

According to city leaders, those elements are an important part of distributing the traffic load.

"As people shift their habits – and habits take a while – as people realize that they can go, say southbound on a different street than they were used to doing on a certain street for many, many years, they'll realize that there's a better ability to kind of go from one place to the other," said Jitin Kain, of South Bend Public Works.

While most of the street elements are complete, the city is adding cameras at intersections to help manage the flow of traffic in the next few weeks.

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