County agrees to remove brick wall in Urbana

County agrees to remove brick wall in Urbana

URBANA – The driver's nightmare on Elm Street is about to come down.

An ornamental brick wall in the southeast parking lot at the Champaign County Courthouse will be removed, according to county officials, after complaints from citizens and Urbana aldermen that it blocked the view of drivers on Elm Street seeking to turn left or right onto Vine Street.

Champaign County Administrator Denny Inman said this week that the county had decided to comply with the request of the Urbana council, made this week, asking that the 4-foot-high wall come down. The county had been intending to put up lettering on the wall identifying the Champaign County Courthouse.

"We're going to take a low-key approach to this, and we're going to work with the staff of the city of Urbana to remove it," Inman said. "The courthouse was done in a spirit of intergovernmental cooperation, and we'll handle these issues in the spirit of intergovernmental cooperation."

Inman didn't have an exact schedule for removal of the wall.

Bricks from the wall, which Inman said cost a few thousand dollars to construct, will be salvaged and used to build a sign identifying the METCAD operations center at 1905 E. Main St., U, he said.

The wall is just north of the intersection of Elm and Vine streets, east of the courthouse.

The county had obtained a permit for the wall from the city, and city engineers had approved the sight lines as being within city visibility triangle regulations.

But a man who works in Urbana, Samuel Furrer of St. Joseph, blames the poor sight lines for an accident he had on Dec. 28 at 12:18 p.m.

Furrer, a guidance counselor at Urbana High School, said he was in his 1994 pickup truck on Elm Street and came to a stop at the stop sign. Seeking to make a left turn onto Vine Street, Furrer said he looked both ways and pulled out and was hit by another vehicle headed southbound on Vine.

"I pulled up to the stop sign, looked both ways and did not realize that wall was obstructing my view as much as it was," he said. "I pulled out and some lady smashed into my driver's side door."

Neither Furrer, his 12-year-old son, Joel, nor the woman was hurt. But Furrer's truck was totaled and he was ticketed by city police for failure to yield at a stop intersection.

About a week after the accident, the city installed a white stop bar 13 feet past the stop sign, with vehicles instructed to "stop at line" by a small sign added to the bottom of the stop sign.

Newly appointed Ward 5 Alderman Dennis Roberts, a Democrat, began raising the issue at recent city council meetings, saying he had heard from constituents that the intersection was a hazard.

"I took my car and drove by it and saw that wall did block your view to the north in a significant way," Roberts said. "When you stop at the stop sign, which is what 90 percent of the people do, your sight is obstructed."

Roberts said he was also concerned about pedestrians who walk across the intersection. He said the stop bar where cars stop leaves little room for pedestrians to walk across the intersection.

You can reach News-Gazette staff writer Mike Monson at (217) 351-5370 or via e-mail at mmonson@news-gazette.com.

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