Construction on South High Street will soon be under way, as multiple state and federal grants alongside local funding will assist with making Urbana safer and more pedestrian-friendly, as well as improve stormwater drainage.
South High Street measures about one mile between U.S. Route 36 (Miami Street) and state Route 55, running parallel to U.S. 68 (Main Street) and passing in front of the former Urbana University (UU) campus.
In 2015, the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission (LUC) put together a Regional Transportation Plan, which identified South High Street as a priority corridor for safety improvements due to crash frequency and associated property damage. From there, beginning in 2018, Urbana city officials partnered with the LUC and engineering firm Burgess & Niple to conduct a feasibility study addressing these safety concerns.
This study helped city officials develop cost estimates for proposed funding applications and identify several areas in need of improvement on the street. First, gapped sidewalks, and sometimes a lack of any sidewalk or protective curb, impeded pedestrian and bicycle connectivity along this route. Second, Urbana residents called for traffic-calming measures in order to retain the residential feel of South High Street, rather than the road becoming a bypass for U.S. 68.
After the completion of the study in early 2019, Urbana began pursuing federal funding through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). The initial applications, sent in between May and June of 2019, kicked off a stream of funding sources.
To date, Urbana has received over $6 million in state and federal funds: three ODOT grants totaling $3.1 million, an Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) 0% interest loan for $1.3 million, and an OPWC grant for $600,000. Additionally, the city has elected to use its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant funds (about $1.2 million) towards this project.
Additionally, over several years, the project has accumulated a significant amount of local funding for the development process and right-of-way acquisition. For actual construction, the city’s local share is $610,902.80 with local funds (in 2023 and 2024) coming from the city’s Water Capital Improvement Fund, the city’s Sanitary Sewer Capital Improvement Fund and the city’s General Capital Improvement Fund.
The total project cost is estimated at $6,733,425.85.
Doug Crabill, City of Urbana Community Development Manager, has been involved in this project since its infancy. Moving into construction, he will handle administrative organization, invoicing, monitoring Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) requirements and wage compliance, and public communications.
“We’ve been working on project development since we obtained those federal funds in 2019,” said Crabill. “These federal projects take typically four to five years, and we’re right on where we thought we would be as far as being able to start construction in 2023.”
On April 4, 2023, the project was released for bid, and Urbana opened the bids on May 1, 2023. Though seven prime contractors were interested in the project, the city received one bid from R.B. Jergens Contractors, Inc. of Vandalia, which was within $14,000 of the engineers’ estimate for the project. The city awarded the bid, and construction is now slated to begin as soon as July 10.
Crabill has worked alongside Tyler Bumbalough, Urbana City Engineer, who is responsible for overseeing the project’s design and inspection (the city is using a local Urbana company, True Inspection Services), monitoring environmental processes, working with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), seeking grants, and responding to the concerns of citizens.
Bumbalough stated that the entire project revolves around making the street safer for those who travel it and live nearby. The improvements and roadway reconstruction will create four benefits: 1) new sidewalks with lane markings that will aid pedestrian and biker connectivity to surrounding streets, linking north and south (as well as a paved parking lane to create better on-street parking options); 2) raised intersections that serve as a plateau to slow traffic (a first for Urbana); 3) speed humps and curb extensions to slow traffic; and 4) installation of storm sewer upgrades, to include over 125 new storm structures over one mile that will solve ponding issues.
Improvements will also include replacements of water lines and sanitary sewer lines, some of which may be up to 100 years old. The existing roadway has a limited stormwater system in place to provide roadway drainage from College Street to State Route 55. Several catch basins exist within this corridor, but there is no curbing to direct water to these catch basins. As a result, sections of the roadway are frequently impacted by the ponding of water within the roadway. This improvement project will add a storm system, including catch basins and curbing. In addition, the existing stormwater system, including catch basins and curbing, will be replaced between College Street and state Route 55.
The significant amount of funding sources that Crabill and Bumbalough were able to secure for this project drew considerable attention, and the city was asked to present its plans for South High Street at the October 2022 Ohio Transportation Engineers Conference (OTEC) in Columbus, well-attended by several thousand engineers.
In the coming months, Crabill and Bumbalough explain that the public should expect block-by-block closures along the construction area, with segments of the street (1-2 blocks at a time) shutting down in phases throughout the project. The entire project corridor will be closed to through-traffic once the project starts, with an alternate route or detour posted. However, residents have likely begun to notice precursor work happening already, as utility companies are currently working to relocate underground utility lines, such as natural gas and telecommunications. Additionally, above-ground power poles within the corridor have also been relocated.
The contractor will first install the new water line between the former university campus entrance and Miami Street. Next, they will install a new stormwater line on West Water Street to provide an outlet for stormwater on the project. Once these underground utilities are completed, the contractor will begin a block by block reconstruction of the street, placing both an intermediate and base layer of asphalt. At the conclusion of the project, the final surface course of asphalt will be installed from one end of the street to the other.
Overall, Crabill and Bumbalough look forward to how the improved corridor will benefit Urbana citizens by linking some of the most vital aspects of the community.
The local soup kitchen and homeless shelter, the Caring Kitchen, is located at the intersection of South High Street and Miami Street. The Champaign County Community Center, a local hub which houses the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Driver Exam Station, Job and Family Services, the Board of Elections, the County Recorder, the County Auditor, the County Treasurer, the OSU Extension Office, the County Health District, Ohio Means Jobs, and Freedom Grove, is located at the south end of South High Street.
Furthermore, South High Street has considerable residential activity, featuring several multi-family apartment complexes such as Urbana Village (a 45-apartment community of apartments and townhomes for families and senior citizens) as well as the Cobblestone Hotel and Suites.
South High Street’s proximity to the former UU campus can also serve as a benefit; the improved route may make the campus more attractive and accessible.
Lastly, the street is only two blocks east of downtown Urbana and the historic Monument Square, the center of business and government life in Urbana and home to the Champaign County Courts, the U.S. Post Office, the police and fire stations, and numerous banks, churches, shops, and restaurants.
Urbana hosted a public informational meeting and open house on Thursday, June 29 at the community center to answer questions and address concerns. Additionally, notification letters have been sent out to all affected residents, and throughout the process, Urbana will post construction updates and announcements on a special page on their website: https://www.urbanaohio.com/south_high_street.html .
Construction is estimated to conclude in fall of 2024, with a likely shutdown period for harsh winter weather.
“Ultimately, we just want to keep the community updated as the project moves forward,” said Crabill.
To stay up-to-date on construction project progress, please visit the City of Urbana’s website: www.urbanaohio.com. On the homepage of the city’s website, under Current Events/Projects, click on the link for South High Street Construction Updates. This information will be updated throughout the duration of the project.
Reach Katie at UDCeditor@aimmediamidwest.com