Earlier this month the mayors of South Bend and Mishawaka stepped up to their podiums to deliver their State of The City addresses. Throughout their speeches they listed the various accomplishments of their cities in 2010, and laid out plans for 2011 and beyond.
Their addresses were well reported by the media, and it is my intention in this post to elaborate on just one facet of their speeches: alternative transportation. Biking and walking. A lot is going on that we, as bikers and walkers don’t fully appreciate.
Mayor Steve Luecke had these comments about South Bend
Bicycle Friendly Community and Bike the Bend
When South Bend was designated as Indiana’s Green Community of the Year and as northern Indiana’s first Bicycle Friendly Community, it was another mark of excellence. The Bicycle Friendly Community designation by the League of American Bicyclists puts South Bend in a prestigious class of cities. Only 158 communities – the top one-half of 1 percent of the nation’s cities – have achieved this award for “remarkable commitments to bicycling.” Rob DeCleene, the new executive director of the South Bend/Mishawaka Convention and Visitors Bureau, recognized the significance, calling it “a huge coup.” He noted that bicycling has a very passionate following and represents so many positive aspects of a community — fitness, environmental awareness, family-friendliness. This last attribute was highlighted when the first Bike the Bend ride drew nearly 1,800 recreational bicyclists to our city streets and trails, as well as those of Mishawaka and St. Joseph County. Inspired by a private foundation and supported by the bicycling community, this event won a Local Government Cooperation Award from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. Many volunteers pulled together to help make this ride happen. Participants universally appreciated the family time and the chance to see our community from a new perspective. Join us May 15 for the second Bike the Bend, which will draw even more residents and visitors to our community. With underwriting sponsorships from foundations and private-sector companies, the ride is on its way to becoming self-sustaining – something that will add to our celebration during the post-ride festival in South Bend’s Potawatomi Park.
The parks department also created South Bend’s first Park Foundation, which will seek funding and capital development resources for the department. Already, we are benefiting from one valuable resource – volunteers contributed more than 10,000 hours in support of park operations. Whether cleaning parks and riverbanks or staffing programs and upgrading equipment, these civic-minded residents provided the equivalent of more than $180,000 in support.
Lovers of the river will be excited by our plans this year to connect South Bend’s extensive trail system to the City of Mishawaka’s Riverwalk. This will complete a trail system along the full length of the St. Joseph River through South Bend. After public hearings this spring, we will connect Northside Trail east to Logan Street. Both City engineers and the public agreed that the least expensive of four options was the best plan to move forward. Construction is expected to begin this spring with the trail completed before year’s end. [Note: the schedule has since been pushed back to 2012]
Diamond Avenue corridor
We’re implementing a unique idea this year to improve drainage and separate combined storm and sanitary sewers in the Diamond Avenue corridor. Instead of installing expensive, buried pipe, we will create an open channel resembling a natural creek near the start of the Riverside Trail at Angela Boulevard and Riverside Drive. Landscaped with meandering paths and a pedestal for public art, the channel will move storm water from an outfall near Portage to the river’s edge, where water will cascade into the St. Joseph River beneath a Riverside Trail overlook. (The open-air agitation of the storm water actually helps enhance the water quality before returning it to the river.) We are able to add this enhancement for the same cost as the conventional solution. In addition, we’re moving Riverside Drive back from the river’s edge, creating more premium riverfront park space and adding a new roundabout to this intersection to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety, and enhance off-street parking for the park on the south side of Angela.
We also will make investments to help the Cove be competitive with newer minor league stadiums and to enhance the potential for surrounding economic development. When this work is complete by July 4, it will make Coveleski a true downtown park with a walking trail and other features. It will be available to the public for much more than 70 home games. Downtown workers and residents will use the 360- degree concourse for wellness walks or buy lunch from the concessions vendors.
Mayor Dave Wood had comments about Mishawaka’s accomplishments and plans.
Bicycle Safety Program
St. Joseph Community Pediatrics and Lt. Tim Williams teamed up to provide a bicycle safety program to all of the 3rd grade students in Mishawaka. Therefore, in 2010 Mishawaka 3rd graders received approximately 950 bicycle helmets, which were furnished by St. Joseph Community Pediatrics of Mishawaka.
Indiana Safe Routes to School Program
One of the highest priorities of our City, with a walk-to school system, is the safety of our children. As such, our Engineering Department continues to work with the State of Indiana to establish a healthy and safe environment for school children through the Indiana Safe Routes to School Program. Each school in the City has been examined relative to the safe route to school program. In 2010, Emmons Elementary School was selected for this program with $247,965.00 in funding made available for improvements to S. Main Street and E. Sixteenth Street in the Emmons Elementary School area. Working collectively with school officials, parents, and the Mishawaka Police Department, it is our intent to design a safe route that is well maintained so that kids may easily walk or bike to and from school. In 2011, these improvements will include the replacement of damaged sidewalks and the removal of any brush or trees that may hamper the walkway to Emmons. In part, encouraging kids to walk or bike to school will reduce traffic congestion, fuel consumption and air pollution near our schools. Hopefully, this will also help lessen the growing health and obesity concerns for our children. A different elementary school will be targeted each year throughout the life of this program.
Downtown Main Street/Church Street Improvements
In 2011, we will undertake a major improvement to the Main Street/Church Street corridor in the heart of our downtown. This is the most heavily travelled thoroughfare in the downtown and provides a tremendous opportunity to enhance and beautify our downtown for our citizens, existing businesses, and to help promote future development. Once completed, this project will improve traffic flow, increase pedestrian safety, and enhance the character of our downtown.
Spring and Summer Events in Mishawaka
During spring and summer, multiple programs and events took place in our city parks including Bike the Bend, and the Memorial Day Bike Decorating Contest. The Bike the Bend event, held in May 2010 was a large event consisting of a 33 mile family bike ride in the streets of Mishawaka, South Bend, Notre Dame, and St. Joseph County. Months of planning and coordinating with the university and South Bend and Mishawaka had to take place for this first time bike ride event. The ride was a huge success attracting thousands of families and friends enjoying free rein of the city streets capped off by an after party celebration on Kamm Island. The 13th annual Bike Decorating Contest was held in conjunction with Bike the Bend. Patrons that participated had the chance to win a youth season pool pass or a family season pool pass. All contestants received a participation certificate and a goody bag full of patriotic items.
Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP)
We replaced ten out of twelve existing school warning flashers from incandescent to LED including a beacon located on the back of the assembly identifying to traffic they are traveling within a school zone. The change to LED will allow a brighter display during all weather conditions providing a greater distance of visibility. The greater distance allows for the vehicular traffic to have an advantage of recognizing the school zone and providing the highest level of protection for pedestrians. In addition to the safety advantages, the LED provides a longer life, less energy and a constant level of safety. The remaining two school warning flasher locations have been included in previous or scheduled City projects and offer this same level of safety.
The success and heavy use of the Mishawaka Riverwalk continues to spur the City’s efforts in expanding to connect more neighborhoods and parks to the St. Joseph River. Implementing the expansion of the Riverwalk requires a great deal of planning and study. Unlike a rails-to-trails program or green-field development, constructing the Riverwalk through established areas will require the City to buy property and, in some instances, relocate homes or businesses. The next logical expansion of the Riverwalk will be to connect our existing downtown walk east to Cedar Street, on both sides of the river. Specifically, in 2011 the City will contract to design a connection between Race Street and Cedar Street on the South side of the river. The goal will be to work with the existing land owners to limit the impacts on private property while providing the appropriate public space. The engineered plan will identify the impacts to specific properties and will allow the City to review plans with existing property owners. Given the number of property owners involved and the dialogue that needs to occur, implementation of this conceptual plan will likely take a number of years.