Easier access to Campustown could result from expansion

The University hosted an informational open house along with the city of Champaign to educate the public about the South Fourth Street Extension Project, which would involve constructing an improved Fourth Street from Windsor Road to St. Mary’s Road.

Sean Widener, engineer for Clark Dietz Inc., said the construction of a new Fourth Street was imperative to the expansion of the University’s Research Park and that the existing Fourth Street is inadequate.

“The old Fourth Street is outside the limits of the Research Park itself,” Widener said.

The old Fourth Street currently resides on land belonging to the College of ACES, so using the old street to serve Research Park is not an option, Widener said.

Widener said the original plans for the next phase of the development involved an internal network of streets.

Fourth Street’s new position will be pushed farther west — into the development of Research Park — which will save money by allowing a single street to serve more of the Research Park itself.

Roland White, city engineer for the city of Champaign, said the construction of a new Fourth Street serves two purposes: the expansion of Research Park and improving traffic.

“The primary purpose of the project is to serve the Research Park for economic development purposes,” White said.

White also explained that the improved street would serve to alleviate traffic for those driving into campus.

“Let’s say you were … to get onto Windsor Road and access the University during a sporting event or move-in day. There are only a couple ways in on the southwest side (of campus), and we really need another connection, particularly for sporting events,” he said.

“Fourth Street is a nice street through the campus. It goes through Green and Springfield all the way south to the stadium and Assembly Hall. It only makes sense to continue that.”

The need for better transportation into campus has been a goal for some time, White said, and the expansion of Research Park serves both the research needs of the University and the city’s economic development goals.

Bruce Walden, director of real estate services for the University, said funding for the project is part of the broader plan to expand and fill Research Park.

Funding for the project came from federal and state capital bill dollars secured by Research Park.

The largest share of the money — $6.3 million for construction ­— came from the state of Illinois.

In total, the project received over $7 million in funding, Walden said.