Ahead of UI move-in day, it's good news, bad news on road work

Ahead of UI move-in day, it's good news, bad news on road work

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CHAMPAIGN — The good news for Thursday's University of Illinois move-in day is that both Green Street and Fourth Street in Campustown have reopened after summer construction projects.

Not so much Neil Street in downtown Champaign.

A city repaving project kicked off recently, narrowing Neil to one lane between University and Springfield avenues just as traffic heats up with the start of the fall semester.

"Obviously, it's not ideal to be working this week," said Assistant City Engineer Chris Sokolowski.

But, again on the good-news side, Sokolowski said both southbound lanes of Neil should reopen to traffic by Thursday morning for any UI traffic coming south off Interstate 74. Crews are planning to repave that stretch on Wednesday, and "they'll work a long day to get all that done," he said.

"There will be no construction going on between University and Springfield on Thursday," he said. "That's, of course, the day we all circle on our calendars, when you have the most people coming to town."

Actually, University Housing officials advise parents headed to campus not to use the Neil Street exit off of I-74, directing them instead to Prospect or Lincoln avenues, depending on which residence hall they're headed to.

But officials expect heavier traffic downtown as students and parents flock to local restaurants. And UI Housing maps also direct students coming in on I-57 to take the University Avenue exit and proceed through downtown to Lincoln Avenue to get to certain Urbana residence halls.

Sokolowski said the Neil Street work couldn't be started any earlier because it's the tail end of a project revamping the intersection of Logan Street with Neil and Walnut streets, with curb "bump-outs" and traffic signals for pedestrian safety. That work had to be completed first so the pavement could match up to the level of the new concrete, he said.

The project didn't encounter any delays this summer and the contractor is on schedule, he said, although "ideally, we would have been ready last week."

Stacey DeLorenzo, planning coordinator for UI Facilities and Services, said she asks the cities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy, as well as Champaign County and the Illinois Department of Transportation, for information each year on any construction projects that could affect traffic on move-in day, based on the suggested routes that UI Housing supplies to incoming students.

"The downtown one was not something that they had communicated," she said, "probably because we're more interested in getting people off the highway and onto campus and not where they're going to be going around and sightseeing."

Incoming UI students and parents are urged not to follow directions provided by Google Maps or Mapquest on Thursday but rather use maps provided by UI Housing to avoid construction and other traffic concerns. Some routes may seem circuitous, but they're set up so that students don't have to drive past crowds at other residence halls to get to theirs, DeLorenzo said.

DeLorenzo said she also urged university planners to hold off on some projects until after this week because of the traffic crush, including a utility project on Peabody Drive near the UI Education Building. It's not a major project, she said, but traffic that day could make it hard for trucks to get around.

Likewise, she advised managers of ongoing construction projects, including the Football Performance Center, not to schedule deliveries for Thursday.

"Then you don't have to worry about 40,000 kids and all their relatives coming in," she said.

Meanwhile, the last section of the Multimodal Corridor Enhancement project on Green Street in Champaign wrapped up this weekend, with the road opening to traffic on Saturday, Sokolowski said.

Two other thoroughfares, Wright Street and Fourth Street, reopened last week before students returned, he said.

Portions of Sixth and Third streets near White Street remain closed as MCORE work continues there.

And work on Pennsylvania Avenue in Urbana is complete, while construction near Fourth and Daniel streets has moved off the street, removing barricades there, DeLorenzo said.

Crews may still be paving other sections of downtown Champaign streets on Thursday, but not on Neil itself, Sokolowski said. The other work includes Walnut between University and Main Street, and sections of Taylor, Market and Chester streets.

Motorists heading through downtown are advised to use other southbound roads, such as State Street, until the construction wraps up, officials said. A message board to that effect will be placed on Neil near Hill or Columbia streets, Sokolowski said.

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