The annual University of Illinois homecoming parade will take a new route this year to avoid ongoing MCORE construction on Wright Street — which also caused a natural-gas leak on Monday.
The Oct. 18 parade will start at Fourth Street and Kirby Avenue, near State Farm Center, but steer clear of Wright and Green streets, its traditional path along the west side of the UI Quad.
Instead, the route stays south of the Quad as it takes the parade east into Urbana before ending at Goodwin and Nevada avenues. It will follow Fourth Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, Sixth Street and Gregory Drive to Goodwin.
The campus planned to use the new route last year, but the parade was rained out, said Stacey DeLorenzo, transportation director for UI Facilities and Services.
That was before the MCORE work started on Wright, but the phase on Green Street wasn’t finished, and “we didn’t want to take them up Wright Street,” said DeLorenzo, who is also the campus liaison for the MCORE project.
The current MCORE work on Wright, south of Green, began last spring and has closed large sections of the street at times, causing detours for pedestrians, cars and buses.
DeLorenzo isn’t sure if the parade will revert to its old route once all of the MCORE work is completed in 2020.
The current phase is scheduled to wrap up by Dec. 31, but work will begin next spring on the stretch of Wright north of Green Street. And next summer, Sixth Street between Armory and Chalmers will be shut down, as well as the block of Chalmers between Wright and Sixth, DeLorenzo said.
Just after 11 a.m. Monday, construction crews digging a new storm sewer on Wright hit an Ameren gas main at the northwest corner of Wright and Daniel Street, prompting a brief evacuation of the UI’s English Building, campus officials said. About 20 classes were affected, some just moved to the Quad.
The building’s occupants had reported a strong smell, DeLorenzo said, but the evacuation turned out not to be necessary, as the problem was outside, Delorenzo said.
The intersection was closed to traffic and pedestrians. Crews shut off the gas and stopped the leak around 12:30 p.m., though Wright remained closed for some time after that.
“The ventilation systems of nearby university buildings were closed briefly to limit the intake of the gas odor. However, the amount of natural gas never reached a level hazardous to occupants,” said Steve Breitwieser, spokesman for UI Facilities and Services.
The Illini Union Bookstore and the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, which both sit at that corner, were not evacuated, though firefighters checked the buildings to ensure there were no leaks, DeLorenzo said.
The $47 million MCORE project — short for Multimodal Corridor Enhancement — is designed to improve safety and transit for pedestrians, bikes and buses in central Champaign-Urbana.