News Local/State

New Stretch Of Olympian Drive Opens; Existing Stretch Of Lincoln Ave Closes For Upgrade

The newest stretch of Olympian Drive.

The newest stretch of Olympian Drive, as seen from North Lincoln Avenue, north of Urbana. Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Media

Another section of Olympian Drive along the north edge of Champaign-Urbana was set to open for traffic on Monday, March 6th.

Olympian Drive was planned as part of a proposed ring road around Champaign-Urbana. The present road runs along the northern border of Champaign, connecting to I-57.

The new section of Olympian Drive carries the road over the Canadian National Railroad tracks, and connects to Lincoln Avenue on the northern edge of Urbana.

Urbana Public Works Director Bill Grey says the extension should help the city’s north end, north of I-74.

 “There’s a new water main that’s been installed up there,” said Grey, “and there’s sanitary sewers installed. So really, the area is quite poised for development.”

But it will be about six months before motorists getting off Olympian Drive at Lincoln can travel south into Urbana. Work begins Monday on an upgrade to the North Lincoln Avenue extension, from Olympian south to Saline Court and Oaks Road, so it can handle the expected increase in traffic.

In the meantime, Grey says motorists leaving Olympian Drive at Lincoln can travel east to US Route 45 north of Urbana, using Ford-Harris Road. However, Ford-Harris does not allow heavy trucks.

The original plan for Olympian Drive calls from the road to be extended out to U-S 45, using an existing rural road which has been named East Olympian Road. However, more recent proposals called for a complete new road to be built. Urbana’s Bill Grey says while the further extension of Olympian Drive is a goal, there are no immediate plans to do so.

 “It’s the city, and county and actually city of Champaign’s desire that some day, it (Olympian Dirve) would be extended to certainly Willow Road, and Willow Road to US 45”, said Grey. “Whether that is in one or two or more phases, that would be determined.”

The full extension of Olympian Drive to U-S Route 45 ran into heavy opposition from local landowners and opponents of urban sprawl from 2009 to 2011.  The extension only as far as Lincoln Avenue, coupled with improvements to Lincoln, was considered a compromise.