Illinois Public Media News
Annexation talks with a private landowner are going a little slow, so the village of Savoy is trying another approach to gain jurisdiction over a stretch of Curtis Road --- and to keep a road improvement project moving.
The village board voted Wednesday night to acquire county-owned land in Champaign Township along Curtis Road, east of Prospect. The 20 acres includes land for a water detention basin. But most of it is a narrow strip running along Curtis Road. The county obtained the land for the Curtis Road improvement project, and it was slated for eventual annexation by Savoy. But Savoy officials are acquiring it now, to ward off Champaign Township's effort to hold up the project.
Savoy Mayor Robert McCleary says he wants to avoid any delay in the Curtis Road project, which is intended to make the road ready for increased traffic from the new I-57 interchange. He says acquiring the land from the county ahead of schedule is a good solution. "And if it ever quits raining," he adds, "and they can finish up that first phase, we should be in a position to allow that second phase to keep right on marching, and not have to worry about our federal and state dollars."
Champaign Township has refused to approve work on the stretch of Curtis Road under its jurisdiction, until the city of Champaign grants it concessions in a long-running annexation dispute. In response, the city and Savoy have turned to annexing land along Curtis Road in Champaign Township to avoid delays on the road project. Champaign has reached an agreement to annex privately owned land at the corner of Curtis and Mattis.
The Champaign County Board will vote next week on selling the piece of land to Savoy. McCleary says negotiations with the Lo family for farmland along the same stretch of Curtis Road will continue.
A proposal to annex land along Curtis Road to for road improvements passed the Champaign Plan Commission Wednesday. It goes to the city council on May 19th. City officials want the annexation, because Champaign Township is refusing to let the road project continue.
A crew is already at work on Curtis Road, which is being improved for the increase in traffic that's expected from the new Curtis Road interchange at I-57. But there's no work being done along a three-quarter mile stretch of road controlled by Champaign Township. The township is holding up the work, until the city of Champaign agrees to concessions in a long-running dispute over tax revenue from past city annexations. In response, the city of Champaign and neighboring Savoy are talking to landowners about annexing property along that stretch of road, which would move jurisdiction over to them. Savoy's negotiations have been going slowly. But Champaign Planning Director Bruce Knight says the city has an annexation agreement with the owners of property at the northwest corner of Curtis and Mattis. He says that should allow work on the project to continue without a hitch.
"If necessary", Knight says, "the contractor could move to Mattis Avenue as a next step, while Savoy completes their effort to get control."
The Savoy Village Board last night put off discussion on annexation of another property along Curtis Road until next week. But village manager Dick Helten says he expects they'll eventually reach an agreement with the owners. He disputed a News-Gazette report that suggested the negotiations were not going well.
A 3-and-a-quarter mile stretch of Staley Road that had been under state control will now be the city of Champaign's responsibility.
Champaign didn't necessarily WANT the responsibility of caring for Staley Road from Springfield north to Bloomington Road. But Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt says IDOT had wanted to give the city the unmarked state route for years, and they finally made a deal: take over the job of maintaining that stretch of Staley Road, and IDOT would approve and help pay for new entrance points along Staley for the Sawgrass and Boulder Ridge subdivisions. The subdivision entrances have been completed --- and on Tuesday night, the Champaign City Council approved an agreement with IDOT to take over that section of Staley Road.
Councilwoman Marcie Dodds cast the only "no" vote. When asked why, the District 4 councilwoman replied, "because I think we need more arterial roads that need upkeep and maintenance like we need a hole in the head.
IDOT will give the city of Champaign 2-point-9 million dollars for future maintenance and upgrade costs. Champaign Public Works Director Schmidt says the money will go for repaving the road in the next couple of years, especially along the I-72 overpass.
Police in Champaign and Urbana are preparing for more than nine thousand runners, many of whom will take a 26 mile tour around the two cities Saturday morning.
The first-ever Illinois Marathon will require patience from drivers as runners hit the city streets. Champaign police sergeant Scott Friedlein says on many parts of the course runners and vehicles will share the roads, so motorists will have to take extra precautions or find alternate routes.
"When you mix runners and traffic, you run a risk of situations occurring," Friedlein said. "The better we do at marking and making it very clear where people are supposed to be -- and we're working on that diligently on that as we speak -- then the safer the route becomes."
Friedlein says some streets will also be totally closed at times, and no-parking signs are going up along the marathon routes in both Champaign and Urbana. He calls it the largest event he's ever had to prepare for in his 15 years on the force because of the long route and hundreds of volunteers.
The Illinois House and Senate have approved bills raising the speed limit for trucks on rural interstate highways to 65 miles per hour.
Neither bill affects the speed limit for trucks in Cook County. The House version also exempts the five counties that surround Chicago. Once the two chambers apporve identical bills, the measure will be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.
The speed limit for cars on interstate highways is 65, but for semis the speed limit is 55. Traffic safety experts believe having two different limits increases the chances of accidents on the roads.
However, Democratic Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park isn't convinced. When Missouri went to a uniform speed, Harmon said, fatalities jumped by more than 70.
Parking in downtown Champaign would be free starting at seven PM --- that's part of a proposal from city staff that the Champaign City Council will look at during their study session next Tuesday.
City officials increased downtown parking rates and hours a year ago. That included charging for parking until 9 PM. But Deputy City Manager Steve Rost says they're now recommending that the hours be cut back. He says private parking options exist downtown in the evening that don't exist during the day. At the same time, Rost says patrons of restaurants and bars aren't interested in coming back out just to feed more coins in parking meters. Also, Rose says it was hard to explain to the public that the two-hour daytime parking limit doesn't apply at night.
Rost says the city is not recommending a rollback of downtown Champaign parking rates. While stressing that the final decision is up to the city council, Rose says the policy of charging 75 cents an hour in the heart of downtown with lower rates on the periphery is working. But city officials will propose new signage to explain parking policy --- including signs that encourage the use of the new downtown parking deck and surface parking lots for long-term parking. Rost says they also want to install pay-stations along some rows of parking meters --- allowing motorists to pay by debit or credit card.
Officials from the Champaign-Urbana area presented a long wish list Monday night, at a public forum held to hear ideas for spending money from a capital construction bill --- if state lawmakers ever pass one.
The forum in Champaign was organized by Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee Chairman Jack Bradley. The Marion Democrat is holding forums across the state to find out specific local capital needs.
The transportation project most mentioned last night was Olympian Drive. Only about a mile of the north-side link between I-57 and U-S Route 45 has been built. Champaign Regional Planning Commission CEO Cameron Moore says businesses that moved into the north end of Champaign-Urbana were expecting Olympian Drive to be completed. "The fact that it hasn't been built", says Moore, "is having an impact on their ability to continue to operate efficiently. I also believe that businesses that are interested in coming into the area typically like to locate in growth corridors --- which this is. And being able to complete this significant arterial roadway would simply open up more opportunities for development in the area."
Moore says they're seeking five million in state funding for the 27-million dollar Olympian Drive project. They hope federal funding will take care of the rest.
Illinois lawmakers last approved a capital construction bill in 1999, and Bradley says a new capital bill is long overdue. He's proposed raising the Illinois Motor Fuel tax to fund the transportation component of any capital bill. Some who spoke at the Champaign hearing raised concerns that money would be diverted out of that tax revenue stream to non-transportation projects. Bradley says that could be avoided by additional language in the bill, and by sending the money to the state's Construction Account. He says diversions from that account are not possible.
Some grade schools in Champaign-Urbana could soon see a lot more of their students forgo at least part of the morning bus ride.
Around 2-thousand kids from 12 schools participated in International Walk to School Day Wednesday. It's aimed at promoting fitness and pedestrian safety. The students were accompanied by parents, teachers, police, and area officials as part of the annual event. But some of those parents could be recruited on a more regular basis. Rose Hudson is the local event co-chair:
The schools are really starting to take some ownership of it by really taking the day and incorporating more of their students by having the bussed students dropped off a block or two from school and feel like they're more a part of it. We get more parents that will actually walk or bike with their kids in the morning.
A $25,000 federal 'Safe Routes to School' grant pays for not only today's events... but a bike rodeo, which encourages the wearing of helmets and another safety tips... and billboard campaign to remind motorists of proper rules to follow when driving through school zones.
Nearly 4-million people in 40 countries participated in International Walk to School Day.
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