Urbana city officials acknowledge the crumbling conditions of Busey Avenue between Green Street and Illinois Avenue, but ask residents to wait another two years for the Public Works Department to address it.
West Urbana resident, John Krehbiel, expressed his frustration over Urbana’s lack of attention to the road’s condition over the years.
“Honestly, it’s embarrassing,” Krehbiel said. “This road is located just a few blocks away from a world-class university, and people from out of town probably drive on it pretty frequently.”
He believes the lack of attention to this crumbling road might send a negative signal to outside residents about the quality of life in the West Urbana Neighborhood Association. He also blames the continuing work on Green Street for the lack of response to Busey Avenue.
“It seems like Green Street is definitely taking priority on the city’s list of projects, which leaves behind the residents who live on non-major roads,” Krehbiel said.
This section of Busey Avenue is set with bricks, and its lack of maintenance by the city over the years has allowed it to reach the point of needing immediate attention. The ongoing Multimodal Corridor Enhancement Project that is now in the phase of focusing on improving Green Street in Urbana is to blame for the delay according to the Urbana Public Works department.
Moreover, the proposed budget for the City of Urbana for fiscal year 2020 calls for a significant cut to the Public Works Department funding, making it less than half of the fiscal year 2019 estimated expenditures. The city estimates that it spent $1,184,089 in fiscal year 2019 on the Public Works Department, but the proposed budget appears to only give the administration $577,844 in fiscal year 2020.
Carol Mitten, the Urbana city administrator, clarified this discrepancy in the budget by noting the reduction in the Public Works budget is found primarily in line 59, which is entitled Interfund and TFR Out.
“The figure for PW Administration went from $727,021 in last year’s budget to $59,392 in the current year’s budget,” Mitten said. “The figure for the Public Works Administration went from $727,021 in last year’s budget to $59,392 in the current year’s budget. If you look at the same line item for all other programs in Public Works, the numbers have generally gone up significantly.”
Mitten said there are two internal service funds that are funded through Equipment Service, which is mostly vehicle replacement, and IT. The amounts of the transfers to these funds vary from year to year depending on the service levels required.
Urbana Assistant City Engineer Craig Shonkwiler asks the community be patient as the city works through its current major projects. Shonkwiler is also an appointee to the Traffic Commission Board.
“Urbana Public Works is also aware of the deteriorating condition of that pavement, and we do have plans to fix that street after the construction of MCORE Project 5,” Shonkwiler said.
The construction on Green Street near campustown has been a focus of attention and inconvenience for the Champaign-Urbana community since 2016.
“Green Street between Lincoln Avenue and Race Street is completed in 2020. Therefore, the soonest we can expect to address the Busey Avenue pavement is the summer of 2021 when U of I classes are not in session,” Shonkwiler said.
MCORE is a partnership between the City of Urbana, the City of Champaign and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to the MCORE official website, the project is an ongoing $46.9 million operation that is intended to be a significant investment in public infrastructure to enhance the connections between the downtown centers of the two cities and the university campus.
Project 5 is the final stage of the operation, and it is the least costly stage of the project, at $2.5 million. After its completion, the crumbled section of Busey Avenue will sit sandwiched in between the newly paved Green Street and Illinois Street.
Shonkwiler would not say if the Public Works Department has a definitive timeline for its plans for Busey Avenue. Plans to address this section of Busey Avenue remain in the works.
This brick section of Busey been deteriorating for years to the point that it is becoming unsafe for vehicles to drive at normal speed due to the severe crevices and bumps that have formed on the brick road. The city insists the work should be completed when U of I classes are not in session, but the section of Busey Avenue in need of attention does not have any direct impact on-campus traffic, unlike Green Street.
According to the Urbana Public Works Department, part of their mission is to strive for prompt and courteous service for its residents. However, a project to address Busey Avenue is not even included on the list of current and future projects for the department.
Additionally, the MCORE Project 5, is the reason the city cannot yet address Busey Avenue, is not also yet included on the list of Public Works projects to be completed, according to Shonkwiler.
Another Urbana resident, Stephen Mills, has also been waiting for the Public Works Department to address the condition of the brick section of Busey Avenue.
“It is frustrating that this section of the street has been ignored for so long,” Mills said. “It is also frustrating that the Public Works Department can’t get it done sooner. It is only a two-block section of the street that really needs the attention badly.”
Even though it is only a small section of the road that needs immediate attention, the Public Works Department can only get around to it in the summer of 2021 at the earliest.