By Kelli Stopczynski
6:49 PM EDT, October 25, 2012
After months of back and forth on a road project to knock down 30 homes on South Bend's south side, the city approved a much different plan that makes almost everyone happy.
“I’m ready to do cartwheels,” said Fellows Street resident Adam Detwiler.
After the city’s presentation, several people from the Fellows Street neighborhood and surrounding area applauded, smiled and gave nods of approval.
“This proposal does all the things that I was prepared to tell you that you need to do,” said Conrad Damian who lives on Broadway Street.
“I’m in favor of the project the way it’s being presented here,” added Mary Fisher, owner of Culver’s restaurants on Michigan Street.
“It is probably the best of all the alternatives that I’ve seen over the past several months,” said Fellows Street resident David Hodges.
It’s the first positive reaction since the city first pitched the project 18 months ago.
“The city administration and the Department of Community Investment have had new leadership in the past few months,” said Community and Economic Development Executive Director Scott Ford. “When we came on board, we realized there was insufficient communication within various departments and within the neighbors of the area.”
Ford said he and other new city leaders also found mistakes in the research. One example – an INDOT study said the Fellows Street bridge would double the traffic on Fellows, a road that already sees just under 4,000 cars a day. But Thursday the city said that INDOT number isn’t accurate.
City planners in the Luecke administration also said that extra traffic would cause the road to fail. The city also said Thursday that would not happen.
But Lynn Bishop and a few others who live on Fellows say traffic is already bad now and will be worse when the new bridge connecting the road with neighborhoods south of the US 20 Bypass opens.
“We do not let our three small children play in the yard. They do not play in the front, they do not ride their bikes, they do not ride their scooters, they do not do that at all because of the traffic that already speeds through,” Bishop said.
She and a handful of other neighbors said they would like to see speed bumps, and the city is considering that as part of its long term plan to monitor Fellows.
Also, a handful of people bought new homes when the city first announced its plan last year but the city said it will buy the homes of people who’ve already bought another one to “make them whole.”
Ford said this alternate plan will save taxpayers a lot of money. The projected cost of the original plan was $5.9 million – which included relocating families and acquiring those 30 homes. But since it now only has to acquire one home, the whole project is expected to cost around $1 million.
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