Cameras to study traffic patterns

Local News
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — If you drive downtown, you might notice new traffic cameras keeping watch.

But, they’re not out to catch drivers speeding or running red lights. In fact, the goal of the cameras is to make life easier. Mariellen Gilpin’s a regular pedestrian downtown. Darn it, her legs hurt.

“Darn it, the place I need to be is, I have to get there.”

To get where she’s going, she has to cross Neil Street at Main. Timed, she has to wait at least :53 seconds before she can cross.

“As an old lady with increasing gimpiness. It’s the price one pays to be active at all, is to put up with a certain amount of pain.”

But, there could be good news for her. Neil and Main is one of three intersections the city is studying to see whether it’s possible to make things better.

Over the next three weeks, cameras will track every person and every car at every interval of time between them. City planner Jeff Marino says it’s part of the Neil Street Corridor Improvement Plan.

“It gives us better data when we do this traffic analysis to say, the vehicle count may be this, but the pedestrian counts are this, so we need to incorporate pedestrian improvements as well as vehicular improvements.”

That’s why drivers could also be in luck. Those heading north through the middle of town, and plan on continuing up Neil Street, eventually have to make a choice: Turn left on Washington then right at a stop sign; or stay on Walnut then turn left on Columbia then right at a stoplight? Thanks to this study, the choice could become a lot easier to make.

“Hopefully it will increase safety so less pedestrians are getting hit by cars, but also increase efficiency so more of the drivers know which way they should go and increase improvement so they can get there faster and safer without having to worry about the intermingling of pedestrians with the cyclists and vehicles.”

Those cameras will be at each intersection for 24-hours. The county’s regional planning commission will crunch the numbers, then city leaders will decide what each intersection needs.

The planning department has been working on the Neil Street Corridor Project for several months now. Leaders say it’s the “gateway” to Champaign. Several construction and revitalization projects are planned between I-74 and downtown.

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