Decision gets mixed reactions

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Danielle Gaines

A unanimous vote from the Champaign City Council last Tuesday night against reducing University district speed limits to 20 mph has received a mixed reaction from the community.

“I was disappointed because I thought this was something we could do together in the University district to help improve pedestrian safety,” said Pam Voitik, director of campus services.

The speed limit reduction was one of many recommendations put forth by the technical committee of the Campus Area Transportation Study in response to the death of University freshman Sarah Channick on Sept. 29. Channick was killed while crossing Sixth and Chalmers Streets on foot.

The speed limit on University owned roadways was lowered to 20 mph earlier this month. Voitik said the speed limit on those roads would stay at 20 mph until the University has had meetings with the cities to decide the best course of action.

“We don’t want to create an environment that is confusing to motorists any more than it already is,” Voitik said.

In the Campus Area Transportation Study meetings, William Gray, public works director of Urbana, said the city planned to change the speed limits of its roads in the University district to 20 mph through administrative action if Champaign approved the speed ordinance. The Urbana City Council is required to approve any administrative change within 90 days, so the item was placed on the Nov. 14 agenda. After the Champaign City Council vote, the item was removed from the Urbana agenda.

“It is important that there is consistency among the entities in the University district, so if Champaign is not going to proceed, we will not either,” Gray said.

Several members of the Illinois Student Senate attended the Champaign City Council meeting to oppose the speed limit change.

“We felt that changing the speed limit was not something that could produce an increase in pedestrian safety on campus,” said Ryan Ruzic, co-president of the Illinois Student Senate. “We do feel that there are other things that could be done to make a difference.”

ISS did not vote on a position or discuss the speed limit change at its meeting, Ruzic said.

When adopting a resolution, the Senate generally has a two-week period to review documents before a vote is taken. The ordinance proposed to change the speed limit was not received in time to allow the review period.

Ruzic said he spoke to several students on campus and received four e-mails opposing the change.

Steven Markowitz, freshman in ACES, sat on the technical committee as an advisory member and voted in favor of the speed limit change.

“I understand that the accidents were not caused by speed, but the point of the change was to make drivers more aware and create a safer campus area,” Markowitz said.

Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart urged students to protect themselves while traveling on campus.

“I would venture to guess that there have been no tickets written for exceeding the 25 mph speed limit,” Schweighart said.

Lt. Holly Nearing of the Champaign City Police Department said enforcement of the speed limit in the University district is difficult, but not impossible.

“We enforce the 25 mph speed limit pretty heavily in certain areas of the district,” Nearing said.

The Mass Transit District still plans to keep its buses operating at 20 mph.

“We have not altered our decision to operate buses at 20 mph in the University District at this point,” said Bill Volk, managing director of the Mass Transit District.

“At a minimum, we will operate at 20 mph in the core of campus.”

Volk also said that the bus speed may increase to 25 mph on peripheral roads such as St. Mary’s, but no official decision has been made.

“The total package of recommendations will make a significant difference and the recommendations taken together will outweigh the loss from not changing the speed limit to 20 mph,” said Bruce Knight, chairman of the technical committee and planning director for Champaign.