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Urbana moves forward with $1.3M safety fixes to major road

A $1.3 million project to upgrade a stretch of road on one of the major arteries in Champaign County should improve safety for pedestrians and prevent flooding, Urbana city leaders said.

A contractor has been chosen to fill in sidewalk gaps, add streetlights, a crosswalk, storm drains, gutters and curbs on U.S. 36 East between Berwick Drive and South Dugan Road. The project will be funded with grant money from state and federal agencies, Urbana City Engineer Tyler Bumbalough said, as well as matching funds from the city and Urbana Twp.

The road is the main east-west highway in Champaign County and gets a lot of commercial traffic, he said, with at least 10,000 cars passing through each day.

“The speed limits are 35 out there and it is quick and it’s busy,” Bumbalough said.

The stretch of road to be addressed has both the Champaign Family YMCA and Champaign County Public Library, he said — two locations people often want to walk to.

Dirt trails have been worn along the road where people have frequently walked.

“Pedestrians, I do see them crossing once in a while and they’re risking their lives doing so,” Bumbalough said. “We want to make it more walkable and safer for them.”

The YMCA has taken safety precautions because of the lack of sidewalks, Champaign Family YMCA CEO Paul Waldsmith said.

“We don’t have children enrolled in programs walking out onto 36 at this point in time,” he said.

He supports the upgrades, he said, because he believes they’ll get more people to choose to walk places.

“Anything that we can do as a community to increase the likelihood that people are going to increase their physical activity is something that we’re likely going to support,” he said.

The stretch of U.S. 36 has also been a problem for flooding, Bumbalough said. In the past, local apartment buildings and the basement of the hospital have been flooded.

The new storm drains should address the problem, he said.

Funding for the project will come from the Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Public Works Commission. The city will match about $291,000, Bumbalough said.

Much of the city money could come from a new storm water utility that residents will begin to pay in April, he said.

J & J Schlaegel Inc. was awarded the project and hopes to begin construction this month. It’s estimated that it will take about five months to complete the project, Bumbalough said.

Residents could see a detour in the area during the project, he said. The contractor is allowed to use a 90-day detour to install utility lines. The detour will be open to local traffic only.

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