Sidewalk study pushes for safety improvements

Local News

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — A new project could save lives, and it’s coming right as another was put in danger.

Another person was hit by a car on University Avenue, Tuesday. It happened at the Wright Street intersection. Police say the woman had leg pain and was taken to the hospital.

The total keeps rising: on or near University, at least 5 people have been hit by cars since last August.

It was completely by coincidence, the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission announced a comprehensive sidewalk project Tuesday.

“Someone’s going to get hit. Someone is going to get hit there,” Julie Trumbull said, April 7.

“I’ve sat and watched people for 20 years,” she said. “People speed down University.”

Trumbull may not be a prophet, but she did warn us. When we spoke with her, she was talking about a different intersection. A woman had just been hit near University and Coler. This time it’s University and Wright.

In case you need a refresher, pedestrians have also been hit at:

  • University and Five Points (Jeff Stacy, 8/27/16. The driver took off and Stacy died from his injuries.)
  • University and Coler (Jason Doggett, 9/24/16. Doggett survived but the driver took off.)
  • University and Race Street (Jeff Miller, 2/11/17. Miller was trying to cross the street in his wheelchair. The driver stopped but Miller died from his injuries.)

“The crosswalks should all be handicap accessible,” says George Vanagaitis, a disabled veteran. “Timers on these lights are totally out of whack. Some of them should be longer, like the ones crossing University Avenue, especially down by Carle. For handicapped people, sometimes 20 seconds is not enough time to get across.”

“Things like missing ramps or sidewalks that aren’t accessible prevent them from doing that,” says Matthew Yoder.

Yoder works with the planning commission. He helped with a report analyzing about 700 miles of sidewalks in Champaign-Urbana, brought to you by the C-U Urbanized Transportation Study.

It identifies which sidewalks are the least compliant with the Americans with Disabilties Act, and therefore need the most improvements. Yoder says those places don’t tend to be in the city’s core or on the outskirts.

“The places where we see the lowest compliance were the areas that are between there that were built pre-ADA and haven’t seen a lot of updates since then,” says Yoder.

The report says their top five priority areas are:

  • Downtown and Campustown, in Champaign
  • South Mattis Avenue at John Street
  • Lincoln Square, in Urbana
  • The intersection of Philo Road and Florida Avenue
  • The area south of Burwash Avenue, in Savoy

Based on where people with disabilities live, the locations of public facilities and traffic stops, those areas are designated as needing more immediate and more serious attention.

“We want this community to be accessible to everyone,” says Yoder.

“That’s a darn good idea,” says Vanagaitis.

University Avenue was not included as a “priority area.” A look at the Planning Commission’s data show parts of the sidewalks there are less than 40% compliant with the ADA.  

The commission says sidewalk locations determine who’s responsible for getting safety upgrades done. IDOT is responsible for that area.

Officials put together an interactive sidewalk explorer app to show how sidewalks in your neighborhood stack up.

For more information, click here.

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