CHAMPAIGN — Just in time for the University of Illinois' move-in day, a new segment of Fourth Street between St. Mary's and Windsor roads will open to traffic at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Officials expect the $5 million project to be a new gateway to campus from the south and a key to extending development of Research Park to the east.
Research Park Director Laura Frerichs said the new roads will provide access to 30 to 40 years' worth of developable land. The park has had about one new building per year since it opened in 2001.
"We want to continue that progress," Frerichs said.
Construction of the new road kicked off last June, and the project includes the extension of Hazelwood and Gerty drives to the east to meet the new Fourth Street. Those drives will be extended a bit further in the future to meet Old Fourth Street, an oil-and-chip road to the east, said Champaign civil engineer Chris Sokolowski.
It also includes street lighting along the new Fourth Street and a traffic signal at the intersection of the new street with Windsor Road.
Before those routes were installed, Frerichs said Research Park had maybe one more developable parcel of land — but it has become a local favorite after outdoor concerts began convening there.
The first block of land Frerichs expects to develop is between First and Fourth streets, just north of Hazelwood Drive.
City officials are asking drivers to remain cautious during the next couple weeks as some minor work remains undone. Sokolowski said workers still need to do some minor cleanup and landscaping along Fourth Street, but the project is expected to be completely finished by Sept. 6.
Sokolowski said that Sept. 6 date was the original project completion date, but workers were pushing to have it finished before the Fighting Illini's first home football game, Aug. 31 versus Southern Illinois University.
University of Illinois dormitories open today.
"As a bonus, we got it open for move-in day," Sokolowski said.