UI trustees consider study to look at campus traffic

URBANA – Six months after a bus struck and killed a University of Illinois freshman, the UI is asking a transportation consultant to take a comprehensive look at how campus traffic can be improved.

The UI took several steps to protect pedestrians after Sarah Channick, 18, died Sept. 29, installing four-way stop signs at key intersections, painting warnings on crosswalks and installing monitors that display driving speeds.

Four pedestrians have been killed in traffic accidents on campus since February 2004 and police have reported more than 30 vehicle-pedestrian accidents on campus in that time.

UI trustees on Tuesday will consider a $155,000 contract with consultants Martin/Alexiou/Bryson of Raleigh, N.C., who will assess transportation systems on campus – for pedestrians, buses, vehicles and bicycles – and make recommendations on how they should be configured. Those will be shared with UI administrators, local elected officials, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District and members of the Campus Area Transportation Study Technical Advisory Committee.

"What we're trying to do is redefine the university's philosophy on how people should move around campus. Our goal would be to create a safer, more walkable, healthy campus environment," said Kevin Duff, campus landscape architect who was on the committee that selected the consultant.

Other studies over the years have prompted changes in campus traffic patterns, including the reconfiguration of several streets and a reduction of the university-area speed limit to 25 miles per hour. A recommendation to lower that to 20 mph after last fall's accident was rejected by the two cities, but the UI did temporarily shelve plans for a new parking deck at Sixth and Chalmers, which would have brought more cars into central campus.

"Given that we have had accidents since we've made improvements," Duff said, "we want somebody to take an objective, outside look at where we're at. They could very well come back and say, 'You're on the right track.' We just want to make very, very sure we are."

The consultants will be on campus this spring, when pedestrians venture out in warmer weather, and again in the fall when new students descend on campus, Duff said. The UI expects their report sometime next fall. The study will be funded by the UI but done in cooperation with the two cities.

Bruce Knight, Champaign's planning director, said the consultants have done similar work at two urban campuses, Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina.

"We got great feedback from the people they've worked for at both locations," he said.

Knight said previous campus transportation studies have focused on how to adjust speed limits and traffic volume to enhance safety, whereas the consultants will examine "what kind of transportation is needed to allow the campus to function, and what's the best way to get that done."

The key will be to plug that information back into the Campus Area Transportation Study, a coordinated effort to improve safety created after the 1995 death of another UI student who was hit by a car at Green and Mathews in Urbana.

"The critical issue here is still that we look at all of this in a cooperative and interactive way," Knight said.

In other business Tuesday, UI trustees will consider:

– Awarding $42.6 million in construction contracts for the $62 million College of Business instructional facility to be built at Sixth Street and Gregory Drive. Designed by world-renowned architect and UI graduate Cesar Pelli, the 153,900-square-foot building will house the MBA program, accountancy and undergraduate programs. Construction is scheduled to start next month and wrap up by May 2008.

– Hiring Turner Construction Co. of Chicago to manage the first phase of a project to renovate a group of UI dorms. The initial $75.7 million project includes a new dining and residential programs building for the Peabody Drive and Gregory Drive residence halls, known as the "six-pack." The building will replace two other dining facilities that are more than 40 years old. The current dining halls, Weston residence hall and the Illini Orange building will be demolished.

The project also includes building the first wing of a new dorm that will have space for students with severe physical disabilities, who now live in Beckwith Hall. The idea is to give disabled students more interaction with other students. UI officials haven't decided what they will do with Beckwith.

The first phase initially included more dorm rooms and totaled $105 million, but trustees scaled back the size. Turner will be paid $2.1 million to oversee the project, plus expenses of $46,463.

– Awarding a $761,500 contract to Roessler Construction Co., Rantoul, to add sprinklers to Trelease Hall, a high-rise dorm at the Florida Avenue Residence Halls. The UI agreed in 2004 to upgrade fire alarms at six dorms and add sprinkler systems to four high-rise residence halls to meet new state regulations. Sprinklers were installed last summer at Sherman and Daniels halls, and the Wardall tower at Illinois Street Residence Halls will be outfitted next year.

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