Urbana City Council looks to make Lincoln Avenue safer

By Joe Parrino

Urbana residents tired of playing Frogger as they cross Lincoln Avenue will get the opportunity to voice their complaints and learn about the city’s plans to make the high traffic corridor safer and faster.

Urbana alderman Charlie Smyth, D-1, called a special meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. for west Urbana residents with an interest in the future of Lincoln Avenue. The meeting will be held at Leal Elementary School, 312 W. Oregon St.

“I’ve been bombarded with emails from my constituents about what should be done there,” Smyth said.

Most are in response to the recently released Campus Area Transportation Study II, which proposes to replace the four-way stops with traffic lights where Lincoln Avenue intersects with Nevada Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. The stop signs currently create back up during rush hours.

Urbana public works director Bill Gray reportedly told Smyth that the switch to signals would move traffic through twice as fast, he said.

The lights create gaps in traffic flow which lengthens the windows of time pedestrians have to cross and motorist have to turn onto Lincoln Avenue from side streets such as Oregon Street. Crosswalks will also be painted at key intersections

Smyth said he hopes this will improve safety at all six Lincoln intersections between Nevada Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

“In the last five years, there have been accidents at every single intersection along that stretch,” Smyth said.

The original aim of the transportation study was to reduce traffic within the campus core by pushing it to its boundaries, one of which is Lincoln Avenue. This goal may come in conflict with one feature of another proposed change. The concerned stretch of Lincoln Avenue could be reduced from four lanes to three, allowing for bike lanes on both sides of the street.

“I like the bike lanes, but I’m not sure if it’s workable,” said Smyth, who often commutes by bicycle.

Fewer lanes may present problems during peak traffic days, such as move-in week and sporting events.

The lane reduction would be marked by paint rather than street construction. This makes it easily reversible, Smyth said.

“We could just try it as an experiment with the option of changing it back later,” he said.

Smyth said he welcomes student contributions to the community meeting, remarking that fraternities and sororities make up an important part of neighborhoods affected by the plan.