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You can all go back to your normal commutes downtown as construction nears a close

An aerial view of the first roundabout.
PHOTO/Brandon Krutsch

By: KENDALL ASBELL
Staff Writer
asbellkendall@gmail.com

For those of you affected by the construction going on in downtown South Bend, you can breathe a sigh of relief because traffic roundabouts are completed. I repeat: the roundabouts are (finally) completed.

You can now cruise through downtown without having to take a major detour to get to your destination. Detours around the duck pond are now a thing of the past. Finally, we can just drive straight downtown.

After a long summer of closed roads and confusing detours, a dream that was incubated in 2013 has finally become a reality. Michigan Street (Indiana State Road 933) revealed its two new donuts (as they are often called) at the beginning of September. These two new additions, whose construction has so often been sources of annoyance for South Bend commuters, are ready to beautify an already improving downtown South Bend.

To be fair, there is still some construction going on downtown while the city completes its Smart Streets project, which should be finished by the beginning of November of this year. The big plan? Finally turning all those annoying one-way streets into two-way streets. It is all a part Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s plan to create “a more vibrant downtown with a stronger sense of place.”

Why the roundabouts? This was an idea that Buttigieg has been kicking around since 2013. The one-way streets downtown often confuse both tourists and locals alike. It deters people from frequenting businesses and, to be honest, the lack of pedestrian street activity often makes downtown South Bend seem boring.

If you aren’t familiar with the city’s love affair with roundabouts, you have obviously never driven down Douglas Road, just above the north side of the Notre Dame campus. Here, one encounters three successive roundabouts, which can be a little disconcerting for the uninitiated.

The new downtown roundabouts, though, put Douglas Road to shame. With an more than five-foot-high brick layered structure in the middle of both circles, and four stone vase-like baskets, ornately rising above each corner, these roundabouts are a sight to behold. Entering the first roundabout, one encounters a sign that proudly proclaims “Welcome to South Bend.”

Entering the roundabouts, one almost feels as though he or she has been transported to the great Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Perhaps such a comparison is a little excessive; South Bend is not Paris and Mayor Buttigieg is certainly not Napoleon.

But, if you haven’t taken the drive into South Bend coming south via Michigan, you should.

Although it may not be that breathtaking now, try to conjure up images of what it will look like come spring: overflowing with flowers, giving downtown South Bend a new, welcoming vibe.

If you do find yourself having a minor anxiety attack while experiencing this roundabout for the first time, take a deep breath. A great thing about roundabouts is you can just keep driving in that same circle until you figure it out.

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