This week's mailbag is bulging more than Bruce Pearl's pockets — and his shirts.
We have questions about trash building up along Interstate 74, allowing more alcohol at University of Illinois sports events and enhanced bridge work in Champaign. Also, whether big box stores are interested in far west Champaign, a big pile of shingles, the old Bergner's store at Market Place, Canada geese and an MTD bidding process that went awry.
More retail way out west?
"With the increased traffic at the Carle at the Fields, is there any talk of a Target or Super Target out that way? It would be an ideal location just off I-57, reduce congestion on Prospect (Avenue), and be convenient for many people."
"We haven't had any talks yet with any big box retailers like Target for our development," said Chris Saunders of Green Street Realty.
"Many of the national retailers we have talked to have indicated that it's a bit too early for them to consider this area. However, as more development continues, I would think this side of town and easy access of the interstate would be appealing to some of these groups."
Beer and wine at UI games
"I see that Rutgers is going to allow beer and wine sales at all its games beginning this fall. That makes at least five Big Ten schools (Purdue, Minnesota, Ohio State, Maryland and Rutgers) that permit the sale of alcohol at athletic events. How soon could this happen at Illinois? Is it being studied by any campus units, groups?"
"We continue to monitor beer sales at collegiate events around the nation," said Kent Brown, associate athletic director at the University of Illinois. "We had a very successful experience at our baseball game last spring (the May 4 Bleacher Bum BBQ game) and we're still working on details to possibly do the same again this season. We will certainly get the word out when we have more information."
Brown said the expansion of alcohol sales at Illinois sports events would be a Department of Intercollegiate Athletics issue although it is something that would be reviewed by "the appropriate campus officials if we would want to move forward with it."
Trash along I-74
"I have noticed a huge amount of trash lining I-74 between Champaign and Urbana and along the roads leading off the interstate — Lincoln, Neil, and Prospect. It makes our cities look horrible. Does C-U have a plan for cleaning up this trash? Maybe they could join efforts."
Your suggestion sounded like a good idea to me but the cities apparently may be ahead of us.
David Oliver, of Champaign's Neighborhood Services Department, acknowledged that there are several locations where trash collects along I-74: Bloomington Road from Mattis to North Prospect; Kenyon Road from Hagen to North Market; Anthony Drive from Mattis to North Prospect and Anthony Drive from North Prospect to North Neil.
"These areas usually have high incidences of litter due to the fencing installed adjacent to the service road where litter becomes trapped," he said. "I spoke with IDOT representative Rita Mathias regarding these areas. IDOT does not allow any organizations to adopt interstates including I-74. This would not include the service roads outside the fencing as described above. These areas can be serviced by volunteer groups but IDOT would not register them because they are not considered part of I-74."
Oliver said he hopes that the CU at Work program, which pays the homeless to clean trash from along city streets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, could address the areas along the interstate.
Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen said it's probably too late to incorporate a cleanup along I-74 into the Boneyard Creek Community Day on April 6, but that she is open to a future joint venture with Urbana.
Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin said her city typically sends a litter pick up detail through the city-owned right-of-way areas prior to mowing season and that clean-up usually is done in April.
She included some of other Urbana clean-up efforts:
— annual clean-ups in specific neighborhoods using Community Development Block Grant funds.
— seasonal workers who are hired to pick up litter one day a week in downtown Urbana as part of the overall landscaping effort.
— the city began the "Adopt Urbana" program in 2010. It is a way community members, businesses and other organizations can help keep a local street or waterway such as the Boneyard Creek free of litter and trash. Participating groups pick up litter in their assigned area at least three times each year. A two-year commitment is requested. Groups can select from a predetermined list of streets and waterways. The city provides temporary street safety signs; safety vests, pickers and gloves; garbage and recycling bags; and pickup/disposal/recycling of all collected materials.
"We'll also install a street sign featuring the name of each participating group on their adopted street," she said. "For more info, email: email@example.com or call Urbana Public Works Environmental Division at 384-2342. The program coordinator tells me that no one has adopted Lincoln Avenue north or south of I-74."
Marlin also included this quote from one of her predecessors, Mayor James Elmo Smith, who was the city's chief executive from 1919 to 1924:
"May we begin at once, and then continue, to uncover and develop the beauty of Urbana that is still hidden. Not a day of clean-up or a week of clean-up but an all-year clean-up.""I couldn't agree with Mayor Smith more," she said. "We need ongoing, all-year, all-neighborhood efforts to keep our city free of litter. Every resident and business can help with this effort, either by officially adopting a street or by caring for their block or business. We can also start teaching children once again 'Don't Be a Litterbug.'"
"You posted a few weeks ago that a demolition permit had been issued to demolish the Bergner's building — any clue what is going to happen on the vacated site?"
As we reported at the time, no building permits for a replacement structure are in the pipeline, according to city officials.
Dennis Robertson, the general manager at Market Place, said: "Plans are being made to take down the portion of the mall that formerly housed Bergner's, though there is no specific date being targeted as of yet. Most modern retailer configurations do not utilize this type of multi-level space, nor would the ceiling heights be appropriate. A similar approach was taken when the former Sears space was demolished and replaced by Dick's and Field and Stream, a structure that is more in line with today's standards."
"I have driven by the Henson Disposal site in Urbana, at Saline Court and the new extended North Lincoln Avenue a dozen or more times lately, and I continue to marvel at the pile of asphalt shingles. What does Henson Disposal do with the shingles? How long do the shingles sit on their property? Is there any concern with groundwater leaching, soil contamination, or contamination of the nearby Saline Branch? When the property was built, they installed, perhaps as a requirement of the city of Urbana Zoning, an opaque fence on the Saline Court frontage. Now that North Lincoln Avenue has been extended north past the pile of rubbish, is there any code that would require the opaque fence to be added along North Lincoln Avenue, to at least block a portion of the view?"
Timothy Kirk, the owner of Henson Disposal, said that the shingles are ground up to make asphalt pavement and that their time on the property depends on the demand. He said the shingles are not a hazard to the environment.
As for your question about Urbana's zoning requirement, Lorrie Pearson, the city's planning manager and zoning administrator, said that industrial outdoor storage areas "are required to be screened from view of public rights-of-way. At the time the special use permit for the site was approved in 2014, the right-of-way for Lincoln Avenue extended had not yet been dedicated, so that requirement was not in effect at that time.
"Coincidental to the timing of the letter to the mailbag, we have been in the process of working with the owner to identify a path to improve the site's appearance."
"Last week in The News-Gazette, I read a classified ad placed by the C-U MTD, requesting competing bids for remodeling and replacement of a portion of their repair facilities. The notice was given on a single day only, and the bids were due less than a week later Further, there was a prebid meeting available for bidders, but the meeting date was the day before the notice was given. Is this a normal practice of the C-U MTD, and aren't there laws limiting public entities from operating like this?"
Karl Gnadt, the managing director at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, has your answer: "Before this question arrived, we had already released an amendment to the RFP to extend the due date, as there was an error that occurred with the timing of the notice in the paper.
"It may turn out that we end up scrapping this timeline and start over. We are discussing this with the architect and the proposers who have received the RFP. However, the architect on the job had directly sent the RFP to five proposers well in advance of the publication and has had contact with an additional two since then. At the same time that the RFP was sent to known eligible proposers, the notice was posted on the web."
Geese not everywhere
"Canada geese are seen on most any pond in town. Yet they inhabit few of the many ponds visible from I-57. Do you know the reason for this?"
We took your question to Steve Bailey, an avian biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey. Here's his take:
"The geese eat short, green grass (i.e. lawns, golf courses, airports and similar places where such grasses are available). If there isn't much grass available or no good places for them to put a nest, they won't be found there. Most of the ponds I've seen from I-57 have a pretty narrow band of grass surrounding them, then nothing but corn or bean stubble. Not many good areas for a goose to put a nest either ... though it often doesn't take much."
"I see that the two long vacant buildings south of the 5-story 520 Neil St. development is being demolished, does this mean something is finally coming to those spots?"
Nothing yet, said Larry Happ, Champaign's building safety supervisor. "No building permit applications have been submitted to the city for those sites," he said.
Suggestion for U.S. 45/Monticello Road intersection
"On U.S. 45 south at Monticello Road why doesn't the state use a yellow flashing light so the people can turn left? If you go past the line it doesn't activate the light and you have to sit there until someone comes behind you. I have seen this used in some other cities."
That doesn't sound like a good idea to me, given the high speeds on that stretch of U.S. 45, and the Illinois Department of Transportation agrees.
"The flashing yellow arrow indication that you refer to is for intersections that allow permissive left turns. The flashing yellow arrow is an option that was introduced with the latest revision of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices but its implementation typically requires extensive modifications to the traffic signal mast arms and controller cabinet," said IDOT's Kensil Garnett. "Existing intersections that allow permissive left turns will have the green circular indication and often have supplemental signage that reads 'Left Turn Yield On Green.'
"The traffic signal on U.S. Route 45 at Monticello Road has a protected left turn phase which allows left turns on the green arrow only because of the high approach speeds and the large divided median. Our experience has shown us that allowing that movement to be made while yielding to oncoming traffic, either through a circular green indication or flashing yellow arrow indication, has the potential for severe accidents.
"There is not necessarily a high number of accidents, but when they do happen they are severe. In the interest of public safety, we feel the traffic signal should retain its current 'protected only' left turn phasing."
Electric scooters legal?
"Just wondering, can I just buy my own e-scooter and ride it in Champaign and the UI Campus?"
It appears so.
"In the Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) they are referred to as 'electric personal assistive mobility devices' and basically the IVC states that any person who is operating one either on a sidewalk or road has the same rights as a pedestrian but that local municipalities can also regulate or prohibit their use," said Henry Haupt of the Illinois Secretary of State's office. "So it's possible that the local municipality might have more regulations."
In Champaign electric scooters appear to fall under the definition of motor-drive cycles and there doesn't appear to be any prohibition except in bike lanes. Here's the ordinance: "No person shall operate any vehicle except bicycles which are not motor-driven upon bicycle lanes which are posted and marked as such."
On campus, UI police spokesman Pat Wade said:
"There’s no campus policy that specifically mentions electric scooters, but there is a policy on ‘self-balancing personal transportation devices’ that might apply. That is defined as ‘a wheeled device designed for an individual to ride in a standing position, with an electric propulsion system.’ This was introduced a few years ago when hoverboards got popular, but it seems to me that an electric scooter would fit the definition. This policy does not prohibit scooters, but it does say that you cannot ride, store or charge them inside any university building."
Soil on the move
"What's going on east of Carle on Windsor (in Urbana)? Lots of dirt is being brought in to the site."
The Atkins Group is accepting fill material to build up the lots along Windsor Road, although there are no development plans for the area.
Champaign bridge work
"I noticed the state of Illinois is replacing the bridge over Bradley Avenue and the city of Champaign is planning a multi-modal (pedestrian, bus, bike) bridge akin to the one on Windsor Avenue. I'm curious as to the funding source. It had previously been the policy IDOT would only replace bridges over the interstate with the same size/design unless local government covered the cost of expansion."
Kris Koester, the Champaign Public Works Department spokesman, responds: "Incorporating complete street features on the new Bradley Avenue overpass is consistent with current city policy, adopted plans and the mobility needs of the community. To reduce the duration of the inconvenience to the public, IDOT (at the request of the city) has agreed to include the approach work in the contract for the replacement of the bridge.
"The total cost of the project is $2,294,960. An amount of $1,571,406 (80 percent) coming from a federally funded ITEP grant. The remaining $723,554 will come from Local Motor Fuel Tax funds.