City presents infrastructure plan to neighborhood


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “I’m excited for Public Works to be here,” Chad Smith, Garden Hills Neighborhood Association president, said. “I’m glad they’re here to inform us of what they have.”

That’s what happened earlier in Champaign as the city presented a plan to rebuild one neighborhood. People want action to make Garden Hills safer. After years of planning, they were happy to sit down with public works tonight to figure out when they will see changes.

Dozens of people came to listen to the Champaign Public Works Department discuss infrastructure plans. They also wanted to express their concerns about the changes they want to see.

“Sidewalks and lights are definitely important to the community for safety,” Smith said.

Those are a big concern, but just some of many for the garden hills neighborhood in Champaign.

“We have a large population here that utilizes the MTD so with that, especially in the winter months when its raining they are walking in the middle of the street in order to avoid puddles or snow and potentially could get hit,” Smith said. “Its actually a miracle no one has got hit yet.”

The City’s Public Works Department went to the garden hills neighborhood meeting. They presented an infrastructure plan neighbors have heard before. Crews would fix drainage problems, add street lights, sidewalks and more.

“The focal point of the project is a detention basin on the south side of the railroad tracks in Garden Hills to alleviate the flooding issues in the neighborhood in the community,” Chris Sokolowski, Assistant Engineer with the City of Champaign’s Transportation Department, said.

The neighborhood has dealt with flooding for years. Any strong rain will flood streets, but a big topic at the meeting was the urge for street lights and sidewalks. People say its a safety necessity.

“The project will also include to rebuild several streets and add some sidewalks along those streets and include street lighting and other improvements and amenities within the basin area,” Sokolowski said.

The city is planning on using more than half of its 25 million dollars in American Rescue Plan money in Garden Hills. That money has to be used within the next few years so the city presented a timeline on the projects.

“One of the best parts of our job is that we get to work with the neighborhoods and communities to try and address issues that they have with infrastructure and other things and so its always nice to meet with them, brief them on things, get some feedback and then work together toward the common goal,” Sokolowski said.

Meanwhile, some people in garden hills are a little skeptical that action will not be taken. They say all of this has been a long time coming.

“In many ways I feel that this is a step forward and I hope that its just not its to show face,” Smith said.

There is also a SLEEP program available. People can get free lights in their yards and also Ring doorbells with cameras. All homes are eligible. A big concern for people is safety in the neighborhood. They also asked for cameras on the new street lights and to have speed bumps on the newly repaved roads.

A Champaign County representative was also at tonight’s meeting. She says the county is working on allocating $11 million dollars to help Garden Hills. If you’re wondering about timelines for all of these changes, they vary. Some are expected to take a couple of years and some longer.

Here’s a look at the city’s timeline for the projects.

Stormwater Improvement Schedule:

  • October – December 2021
    • Field Survey
  • 2022 – 2023
    • Design of Phase 2 (Hedge Road + basin)
  • 2024 – 2025
    • Construction of Phase 2 (Begin in March)
  • 2026
    • Design of Phase 3 (Paula and Cynthia Drive)
  • 2027 – 2028
    • Construction of Phase 3 (Begin in March)

Lighting Improvement Schedule:

  • October – December 2021
    • Field Survey
  • 2022
    • Street light design
    • New SLEEP program
  • 2023
    • Street light construction (begin March)
    • New SLEEP program
  • 2024
    • Street light construction (ends July 2024)

Here’s a look at the city’s documents for Garden Hills Infrastructure Plans:

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