CHAMPAIGN – Speed limits in the university district won't be going down.
Champaign City Council members voted 9-0 Tuesday night to reject a proposal put forward by the Campus Area Transportation Study Technical Advisory Committee to reduce the speed limit on most campus streets from the current 25 mph to 20 mph.
The recommendation came in the wake of Sept. 29 death of University of Illinois freshman Sarah Channick, 18, of Deerfield, who was run over by a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus as she was walking west across Sixth Street at the intersection with Chalmers Street.
The technical advisory committee has been meeting weekly to address pedestrian and traffic safety since the accident, the second such fatality on campus in 18 months.
But council members said they weren't convinced a lower speed limit would help safety, and they said they thought it would be widely ignored.
"This is a classic example of a knee-jerk reaction," said council member Tom Bruno. "The bus fatality had nothing to do with speed. We're going to do something wholly unrelated to the death of this student just to feel like we're doing something."
"I'm not going to support this," said council member Kathy Ennen. "My first thought when I saw it was my chin hit my knee."
University of Illinois officials told council members before the vote that the campus administration supported a lower speed limit.
"The 20 mph speed limit is painful," said Jack Dempsey, UI executive director of facilities and services. "That's the intention, to make it hard, to drive people out to the perimeter."
Dempsey said the proposed lower speed limit was part of a comprehensive "holistic approach" the UI is taking to improve pedestrian safety on campus that includes looking at pedestrians, bicycles, cars and buses.
Dempsey declined comment after the meeting.
A number of student government leaders urged rejection of the 20 mph speed limit.
Student body President Ryan Ruzic said "lowering the speed limit similar to an elementary school level is not needed."
Ruzic said the proposal would make the campus area "significantly more inconvenient."
The proposal would have affected the university district, which runs from Windsor Road on the south and Springfield Avenue and University Avenue on the north, Neil Street on the west and Wright Street on the east.
The lowered speed limit would not have applied to Springfield Avenue, Wright Street north of Springfield, Fourth Street north of Springfield, First Street or Kirby Avenue.
In a related matter, William Volk, managing director of the Champaign-Urbana MTD, said that all 90 of the district's buses are being equipped, at a cost of $50,000, with strobe lights on the sides and front that signal when a bus is turning.
"Turning movements have been an issue in the two fatalities and we need to do everything we can to eliminate that issue," said Volk, who attended the council meeting.
The mass transit district is also exploring purchasing equipment that would create an audible caution tone letting people know a bus is approaching, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. only when pedestrians are present, Volk said.
Also planned is an educational campaign during the second semester where students and bus drivers will be advised to make "eye-to-eye" contact when a pedestrian is crossing in front of a bus.
Also Tuesday, the technical advisory committee came out with a series of short-term recommendations for improving pedestrian safety on campus. Among them:
– Crosswalk striping and restriping.
– Prohibiting turns on a red light at all signalized intersections in the University District.
– Upgrading signals at Sixth and Chalmers, Sixth and Armory, Fourth and Peabody and Fourth and Gregory streets.