Fourth Street extension to aid Research Park

The University and city of Champaign are working on extending Fourth Street south from St. Mary’s Road to Windsor Road— a move that city officials hope will help the development of the University’s Research Park.

The park is a place for technology–based businesses to work with the University’s research faculty and students on collaborative research and access to labs as well as equipment and services, according to the Research Park Web site.

“The development of Research Park helps the community through jobs and taxes and things, extending Fourth primarily to help develop the east part of Research Park, and it has an added benefit for people who live south to get to campus,” said Chris Sokolowski, civil engineer III with Champaign.

The city council unanamously voted to approve the project at its Nov. 17 meeting.

Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart said he thinks the extension is good for the community.

“It will open up about 100 acres for future development,” he said.

Sokolowski said the extension will also help ease traffic in the south part of campus, especially during events at Memorial Stadium and Assembly Hall – but this is just an added benefit and was not a part of the decision in the project.

“The University secured federal earmark and state funding and asked the city to manage the project,” Sokolowski said. “The city has more experience with roads and the University usually does more with buildings, so we were asked to manage it.”

The federal money will cover 80 percent of the design of the corridor, Sokolowski said. The city and the University are providing the remaining 20 percent.

“The city is not taking any risk. If it comes in over, we would reassess with the University,” Sokolowski said. “In that situation, the University would have to identify funding or scale back.”

The University is committing $103,480 to the design of the project and the city is putting forth $30,000, while the federal government is providing $533,520.

Funding for the actual construction of the road will come from a state capital bill. A request for $6,316,050 has been placed for this construction, Sokolowski said.

“The contract (for the design) was submitted to IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation), and we should get the notice to proceed in February or March,” he said.

Sokolowski said the design should be complete by November 2010.

“Construction can start any time after design,” he said. “It really depends on if the state programs funding into the budget, and they don’t make that decision until April.”

As for the design, Sokolowski said there is no “preconceived notion.”

“There will be pedestrian and bike lanes provided in the corridor on or off the street, though,” he said.

Deborah Feinan, council member–At Large, said she was happy to approve the project.

“I’m glad to see we’re completing the streets and that we’re including pedestrian and bicycle paths,” she said.

If any money is left over from the state capital bill, it will be used to extend Hazelwood and Gerty drives between First and Fourth streets, Sokolowski said.