Urbana city council debates transportation developments

The debate at the Urbana City Council meeting last night focused on the Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study, which is released every five years and predicts trends in transportation in the area, including Champaign, Urbana, Savoy and Bondville, over the next 25 years.

Eric Halvorsen, transportation planner, said the focus for personal vehicles will be on reducing miles traveled, improving mobility and connectivity, reducing greenhouse gases and developing new interchanges to improve flow of traffic.

Halvorsen said the plan also calls to implement existing plans for improvement of pedestrian and bicycle paths.

“We need a well-connected and efficient network that is also safe for everyone,” Halvorsen said, “We want to encourage people to bike or walk instead of drive.”

Halvorsen said he predicts the population of the area encompassed by these four cities will increase by 48% and the miles traveled in personal vehicles will increase by 84%.

Charlie Smyth, alderman for Ward 1, said he doesn’t believe the accuracy of these predictions since they do not take into account the impact of any change in the cost of fuel.

“There’s a lack of quantitative-ness to this report,” Smyth said, “There’s point after point where things were just glossed over.”

Smyth said he believed there should be more focus on improving existing roads instead of building new ones and creating “sprawl”.

Halvorsen said federal dollars are for new construction and to receive funding they need to build new roads.

“If you build those roads, people will build and move out there and then they will be driving more,” Smyth said. “The federal government has it backwards.”

Brandon Bowersox, alderman for Ward 4, said the focus should be on improving existing roads and not expansion.

“This plan projects an 84% increase in miles traveled in the number of years when we want to reduce greenhouse gases by 80%,” Bowersox said. “We need to improve our existing roads; there’s No Child Left Behind, there should be No Road Left Behind.”