Coming soon to downtown Champaign: More stoplights

Coming soon to downtown Champaign: More stoplights

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CHAMPAIGN — More than three years after a woman was injured by a bus while crossing at a downtown intersection, the city plans to add stoplights there.

At the intersections of Walnut and Logan and Neil and Clark streets, construction crews have been busy since May adding "bump-outs" to shorten the crossing for pedestrians, and they'll soon add traffic lights there as well.

Even before the February 2015 accident, the city had begun a traffic study and had been in discussions with Christie Clinic, where many of the pedestrians crossing those intersections work.

After the accident, which cost a Christie Clinic employee her legs and the MTD nearly $10 million after a lawsuit, a donation by Christie resulted in the installation of flashing beacons that pedestrians can activate by pushing a button.

But the traffic study showed the need for traffic lights, according to Champaign City Council documents.

"We're very happy that they're installing the additional lights," said Bob Johnson, facilities manager for Christie Clinic. "It's obviously going to help our team members get across the street, and traffic just seems to be heavier all the time."

The entire project, which also includes "bump-outs" at the Walnut and Taylor street intersection as well as resurfacing of some downtown streets, is expected to cost the city $1.06 million, according to council documents.

The project, led by Paris-based Feutz Contractors, is scheduled to wrap up in October.

"We've got a couple different completion dates," said Pete Vanderkloot, the public works department's manager for the project. "August for most of the concrete, then the end of October for all of the landscaping."

The sidewalk in front of Gold Nugget Coins and Walnut Street Tea Company is also being expanded, eliminating the three parking spaces there.

"I wasn't happy to hear that," said Mary Hadley, owner of Gold Nugget Coins, though she thinks the project will ultimately be good.

"So far, it looks good. I'd like my pathway clear and free, but it will get there," she said. "As long as my customers are patient and able to find a place to park on Neil and come in, that's OK with me."

On Neil and Walnut, some parking meters have been bagged during the construction.

That has bothered Hilary Porter, owner of Walnut Street Tea Company.

"In addition to permanently losing three main parking spots, we have currently lost six metered parking spots along Walnut that have been bagged off for bus clearance and construction vehicles," she said in an email. "This severely limits my customers' potential parking options during the current phase of construction. I hope that it does not remain this way for the entirety of the project."

She also is optimistic about the project, which will add a handicap-accessible entrance to the store.

"We are very excited to finally have that accessibility!" Porter said. "This will hopefully attract new customers to our store long term."

Across the street at Clutch Cuts, manager Jenn Hill said the project won't affect them directly.

"It's really helping pedestrians," she said. "I think it's a good thing for this area."

At the Taylor and Walnut intersection, the bump-out on the east side of the street in front of Blind Pig has been completed, and another will be added to the west side of the street in front of Radio Maria.

"In the evenings, there's a lot of pedestrians there," Vanderkloot said. "We're bumping it out, so there'll be a shorter distance for pedestrians to cross."