University Avenue Corridor Study to be presented for approval

The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission and City of Urbana Planning Division will propose the University Avenue Corridor Study to the City of Urbana Planning Commission on April 8. The Champaign planning commission will present a draft of the study, seeking approval to implement the suggested improvements.

The University Avenue Corridor is a pedestrian-heavy area near downtown Champaign that, city officials believe, is in need of a wide variety of improvements.

The corridor encompasses a rectangular area from State Street in Champaign, going east to Maple Street in Urbana and stretching one block north and south of University Avenue, said Eric Halvorsen, transportation planner of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.

The Champaign County Commission conducted a previous study on the University Avenue Corridor in the past two years. In this study, many improvements concerning safer transportation, better land usage and building developments were suggested, said Lisa Karcher, planner for Urbana’s City Planning Division. Currently, Champaign County Regional Planning Commission is taking the community’s suggestions and opinions regarding the draft, which has been made available to the public through its website.

“I think, ultimately, our goal is to achieve a lot of the different recommendations,” Karcher said. “It’s going to be a matter of timing and funding.”

If the University Avenue Corridor Study is approved, improvements will be made gradually with the availability of funding, Karcher said.

According to the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission’s Web site, $18,000 have been provided by the project’s steering committee, a collection of organizations that will enforce any approved changes. The committee includes the University, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Carle Clinic and the city of Urbana. Morgan Johnston, coordinator for the University’s transportation demand management division, said these institutions, located within the corridor, will be affected by any approvals made by the Urbana Planning Commission due to their location. In addition, the Illinois Department of Transportation has granted $180,000 towards the project.

Halvorsen added that much of the development being made to the area is considered “auto-related.”

Because of the project’s key goal to create a more multi-modal environment for pedestrians, bicyclists and road vehicles, the steering committee is looking for improvements in transportation.

Johnston said the school is looking to widen the sidewalk along the Beckman Institute, which runs along the corridor. In addition, Johnston said the University is hoping that transportation improvements will attract students to drive less on heavily populated campus streets.

“We want to encourage car usage along University (Avenue) instead of Green (Street) and Springfield (Avenue),” Johnston said. “We think it’s safer for our pedestrians and students if we didn’t have a lot of cars here.”

The MTD expects to make the area safer for pedestrians by adding more bus shelters to the corridor and pedestrian walkways, said Cynthia Hoyle, MTD transportation planning consultant.

“Right now, University is not a pedestrian friendly environment,” Hoyle said.