MCORE’s days on Wright are numbered


Mark Capapas

Construction continues at the corner of Armory Avenue and Wright Street on Saturday. Work on Wright Street is expected to be done below Green Street by January 2020.

By Ethan Simmons, Staff Writer

After a summer of intensified construction along Armory Avenue and Wright Street, the fourth stage of the Multimodal Corridor Enhancement project is entering its last semester below Green Street. 

This week, construction will flip to the west side of Wright Street, opening entrances to academic buildings along the west side of the Main Quad. According to Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District Chief of Staff Amy Snyder, the hope is to have northbound buses — such as the Silver, Illini, Yellow, Bronze and Raven — running along Wright Street by Sept. 15. 

Despite hold ups with inclement weather and a steam tunnel underneath one of the affected sidewalks, summer construction went “according to plan,” said Champaign Public Works spokesperson Kris Koester. 

“If I had to guess, there’s close to a hundred people involved in the MCORE construction on a daily basis,” Koester said. 

Many of the sites that blocked students last semester are either improved or completely redone. 

Stacey DeLorenzo, head of Transportation Demand Management for University of Illinois Facilities and Services, said Armory Avenue is finished between Fourth and Sixth streets except for some landscaping. 

Much of the Wright Street sidewalk and road is also finished from Armory Avenue to Daniel Street. At long last, students will be able to walk onto the Main Quad coming from Armory Avenue. 

“We got a lot done compared to what it looked like when students left town in May,” DeLorenzo said. 

Construction will continue in segments along the west side of Wright Street throughout the fall semester. 

“Unless something goes terribly wrong — knock on wood — we should be across Green Street by January 2020,” DeLorenzo said. 

MCORE adds to one of the largest construction seasons Champaign-Urbana has seen in decades, with tens of millions of dollars from the city and Illinois Department of Transportation going to multiple area projects, Koester said.

With Wright Street construction disrupting so many businesses, residences and academic buildings, city agencies are pumping out plenty of advance communication and accommodation to people who need it. 

According to Koester, Champaign Public Works has met with the house directors and given alternative parking plans to sororities Pi Beta Phi, Chi Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta. Champaign has also provided alternative parking for members of The Chapel of Saint John the Divine. 

To get the word out to everyone else, UI F&S relies on a “blitz” of social media posts and Massmails, DeLorenzo said.  

“It usually takes two or three weeks until people understand and figure out where they need to be,” she said.

Construction on Wright Street north of Green Street will begin “as soon we can in March 2020,” Koester said. However, that work will be far less disruptive, with no traffic blockages until next summer. 

For now, city officials recommend  students give themselves extra time before classes to navigate, keep their heads up in construction zones and stay on the Main Quad side of academic buildings whenever possible. 

Snyder encourages students to keep abreast of reroutes via the MTD website, which details the cause, affected buses and expected duration of new routes.  

Above all, city agencies preach patience. If all goes according to plan, students who use all transportation methods have a lot to look forward to with the remodeled corridors.

“Whatever mode of transportation you use to get around this area, we feel that the interplay and intersection of those will be much smoother and will have a positive impact on the campus community,” Koester said. 

Visually, Wright Street will look a lot like Green Street’s transit area at the Illini Union, DeLorenzo said. 

There will be bike lanes behind the bus stops and a road “cutout” where buses can turn into a shelter, much like the stops just north of the Illini Union, she said. 

MCORE will also relocate the congested Armory Avenue and Wright Street bus stop, moving it north between Gregory and Lincoln halls.

“As people have seen with the completed projects on Green Street, Wright Street north of Springfield (and) White Street, the payoff is tremendous,” Snyder said. “Our corridors have enhanced lighting. They have terrific bike lanes, pedestrian spaces are much clearer, and boarding for buses is a lot safer.”

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