Recent articles in the News-Gazette have brought the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Multiyear Proposal for Highway Improvements Plan (link is pdf) to the attention of the public. Among the projects included in the bill passed by the Illinois State Legislature was $71 million to widen I-74 to three lanes from Prospect Ave., in Champaign, to Mahomet.
This project has created controversy as a result of the fact that the proposed project was not a part of the local transportation planning processes and local elected officials have stated that they are unaware of why this project was included or why it is needed.
A very strongly-worded editorial recently appeared in the News-Gazette authored by Representative Chapin Rose attacking IDOT’s plans to widen I-74 as proposed (Ed. note: this editorial either isn’t available online or has disappeared from the N-G‘s site).
You can see an editorial questioning the need for the project that was published in the News-Gazette on January 11, 2010 here.
As background it should be explained that transportation projects are usually proposed based on local transportation plans such as the Long Range Transportation Plan 2025 that was adopted for the Champaign-Urbana area. You can see this plan on the Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study website. This plan was recently updated through a public process and the update can be seen at: http://www.ccrpc.org/planning/transportation/lrtp2/index.html
Both of these plans involved a lot of public input and the widening of I-74 (as proposed by IDOT) was not part of these discussions. Additionally, no data on projected traffic volumes that would support the necessity of widening I-74 have yet been provided for public review.
In addition to this project, IDOT has proposed spending $1 million to build a pedestrian overpass for Curtis Road and I-57. This proposal has raised questions as to why it was necessary to build a separate bridge for pedestrians when sidewalks and bike lanes could have been included in the new overpass for Curtis Road that was opened last year.
Questions have also been raised about why facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists are not being built for other overpasses such as Windsor and/or Kirby in Champaign. Many residents now live west of I-57 and those who cannot drive and must bicycle, walk, or access transit are in serious danger when crossing over these overpasses crowded with motor vehicles.
Another point of controversy is that the Illinois Legislature passed a “Complete Streets” bill that required IDOT to design all future IDOT road projects to include facilities for all roadway users including pedestrians and bicyclists. This bill was passed in 2007 and has yet to be fully implemented.
This is an excerpt from a document posted on the League of Illinois Bicyclists website: The draft revisions…do not comply with the 2007 IL complete streets law, which says that “bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be established” in urban areas, with certain exceptions. You can read more information on this issue from the League of Illinois Bicyclists website at: http://www.bikelib.org/2009/12/lib-responds-to-idot-complete-streets-draft
The public hearings for IDOT’s Highway Improvement Plans will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. this Wednesday, January 20th, at the Champaign County Highway Building, located at 1605 E. Main St., U, and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday, January 21st, at the University of Illinois Extension Office, 12190 U.S. 150 in Oakwood.
This is a quote from the News-Gazette article on the hearings:
Gov. Quinn has made it clear that we need more and better community input on project plans to ensure that we at IDOT continue to meet the transportation needs of citizens throughout Illinois,” said IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig. “As we put together what will be one of the largest multiyear programs in the state’s history, we’d like this program to address the needs that are most important to communities and citizens throughout Illinois.”
This is your opportunity to tell IDOT what you think are the most important needs for our community in the coming years.