Overpass plan under fire

SOUTH BEND – As part of the construction plans for the U.S. 31 project, a new overpass will be built to connect Fellows Street and Jackson Road in South Bend.

“It’ll make things more convenient, but I hold safety over convenience,” Bradley Barnard said.

Barnard lives a little more than a block from where the bridge will intersect with Jackson Road. “Right here is where they want to bring an overpass into our neighborhood,” Barnard said as he drove up to the end of Carroll Street.

Both ends of the bridge will be in residential areas, sending all the cars and trucks that take the overpass into neighborhoods.

“These roads are narrow and they want to bring about 100 times more vehicles though this area,”
Barnard said.

Barnard said the streets in his neighborhood are too narrow to handle all of the new traffic the overpass will bring into the area.

InDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton said the bridge will be necessary after the lanes on U.S. 31 are realigned.

Emergency vehicles will need an access point to get North or South of the bypass to quickly and efficiently get into neighborhoods.

But it’s all of the other cars and trucks that will use the overpass that have got Barnard concerned. He said there has to be a better way than pumping traffic through his neighborhood, Barnard said, “Why do we need to have this?”

According to a study done by the Michiana Area Council of Governments, Fellows Street sees less than one-thousand cars a day. But with the bridge extension, MACGO projects nearly six-thousand vehicles will take Fellows Street each day.

Barnard said all of that traffic emptying out in a residential area will be dangerous, “Somebody is going to get injured or killed,” he said, “There are no if ands or buts about it.”

Pinkerton said InDOT held a number of public hearings in 2008-2009 to discuss the project and hear from people in the area, and InDOT took all opinions/concerns into account before finalizing the construction plan.

The plan has been approved; Pinkerton said construction on the bridge should start in the summer of fall of 2012, scheduled for completion in 2013.

Barnard said he would like the streets in his neighborhood widened and speed limits dropped, but that would be up to the city.

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