Before the internet, before cell phones, & even
before there was a man on the moon, the Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study, also
known as CUUATS, has had a transportation plan.
We have been forecasting the future of transportation in the region since 1964, currently covering
an area of about 50 square miles and the cities of Champaign and Urbana, and the Villages
of Savoy, Bondville, Tolono, and Mahomet. Trends, technology and the way we travel is
constantly changing. That is why CUUATS updates their Long Range Transportation Plan every
five years, which includes a 25-year vision for the future.
Each plan starts with input from residents and ends with short-term goals, smart objectives,
and data-driven performance measures. Let’s jump to the year 2045 to imagine how
proposed projects and initiatives could positively shape our community’s future!
“Welcome to Illinois Terminal and Urbana-Champaign, home of the University of Illinois flagship
campus. Since its founding in 1867 as a public land grant institution, the University has
earned a reputation as a world-class leader in research, teaching, and public engagement…”
“Now boarding for Chicago.” “What do you think, should we bike or take
a bus or cab…?” “So from here to Mahomet on the Kickapoo
Rail Trail is about 11 miles…” “Then we break for lunch, right?”
“It’s so much different than I remember.” “Well, it’s been about 20 years now since
we’ve lived in CU.” “There’s so many people going different
places!” We are here at the redeveloped Illinois Terminal
in Downtown Champaign. The second floor lounge has doubled in size to accommodate more passengers
and additional services, like high speed rail. You will also notice a few new shops as you
move through the hall to the new walkway where passengers have easy access to buses, taxis
and rideshare. The Terminal grounds have been thoroughly
revamped. The new parking garage has plenty of spaces to accommodate travelers, teachers
and students at the Ready School, and employees of the adjacent office buildings.
The old parking lot is now a beautiful green space—a great first impression for visitors
to the region. Together, these improvements provide better traffic flow for pedestrians,
bikes, cars, and local and regional buses alike.
“All right, everyone on the bus. We should be at grandma and grandpa’s house in no
time.” Let’s travel around the region to visit
some other improvements proposed for the future. Next stop, east Urbana.
University Avenue in Urbana underwent upgrades to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety such
as LED street lighting, modernized traffic signals, bike wayfinding signs, accessible
ramps and sidewalks. Motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and buses can circulate more
safely around this area now. When you reach east Urbana, you’ll notice
familiar green spaces and a few new ones throughout the local neighborhoods. The Lierman Community
Garden is thriving, and what was once a vacant lot is now an affordable housing development
with transit access to employment and other services around the community.
What hasn’t changed is MTD’s commitment to multimodal connectivity by including bike
racks on all of their buses. You can still get here, or anywhere in CU, by taking your
bike with you and finishing the last leg of your commute across town.
“It’s so good to see you!” “We are so happy you are here! Did you fly
into Willard Airport?” “No, we decided to take the high-speed train.
It’s nice to have so many great options to travel around the region!”
Speaking of Willard Airport, let’s soar on over and see the improvements that make
travelling into Champaign County a breeze. Businesses enjoy Willard Airport’s increased
daily flights, which can accommodate their enterprises that are located in Champaign
County. Willard’s expanded service also adds flexibility for residents who want to
travel to more cities. Autonomous vehicles, also known as driverless
or self-driving cars, have been sharing city streets for years and have been fully integrated
into society as a safe method of travel. Cities can more easily reach their goals of creating
safer streets, supporting public transit, decreasing road maintenance costs, and reducing
congestion as more people choose autonomous rideshare instead of personal vehicle ownership.
In 2045, the airport has also grown into a regional freight terminal. The existing runway
capacity for large aircrafts, as well as the easy connections to the interstate system,
enabled Willard Airport to expand new and enhanced air cargo services.
Leaving Willard and taking US 45 north, you’ll see the new Curtis Overpass. There’ll be
no more interruptions for traffic travelling along Curtis Road as trains pass overhead.
By 2045, the University of Illinois has reached the net zero energy goal, and more Champaign
County residents utilize solar energy and travel by train to reduce their carbon footprint.
A multi-use path on First Street allows research park employees, students, and University staff
to cycle or walk to work safely. The increased number of side paths in the region promote
a healthier community and reduce pedestrian and bicycle crashes and fatalities.
A combination of innovative transportation projects and a focus on health and safety
measures have helped the region to flourish economically.
In the heart of the University of Illinois campus, students, faculty, staff, and visitors
enjoy safe, multimodal connectivity to all the resources the campus has to offer, without
having to own a car. Local agencies work together to improve mobility within and between the
campus and individual municipalities through roadway improvements that facilitate improved
bus capacity and frequency, sidewalks, lighting, and bicycle facilities.
In locations with high pedestrian and bicycle traffic, technology, such as automatic pedestrian
and bicycle detection, provides better safety, accessibility, and mobility for people walking
and biking. More people walking and biking means better population health and better
environmental health as well as less vehicle congestion.
Curb space plays an important role in urban accessibility. This valuable public space
that used to be dominated by personal vehicle parking has evolved along with our cities
to accommodate social functions, additional transportation modes, and rising e-commerce
deliveries. Maximizing curb space with flexible loading
zones for shared ride services and urban freight vehicles can keep our urban centers active
and accessible for businesses and people. Cyclists use bike wayfinding signs and signals
to easily move around the city. “Look! That building is so close to the
railroad tracks!” “It used to be a train station a long time
ago, and it was turned into a theater.” “I remember going to Station Theatre when
we were first dating. That was a lot of fun. Now we can ride our bikes to the next show.”
Here we are at the Kickapoo Rail Trail, that is, one of the many stops on this nearly 40
mile-long multi-purpose recreational trail, also known as the KRT! The KRT now extends
through Mahomet, connecting parks, homes, and businesses in Champaign, Urbana, and Mahomet,
as well as Carle Foundation Hospital and the University of Illinois.
The KRT made it safe, accessible, and fun for pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and
abilities to get around the region. Access to active transportation infrastructure such
as the KRT has increased physical activity and overall health in our community.
“We are almost there. Let’s get off the trail and check out the school I will be teaching
at next year.” Programs such as C-U Safe Routes to School
continue to work to make walking and biking safe and easy for students, parents, and teachers
to get to their local schools. Kickapoo Rail Trail extensions westward from
downtown Urbana have positively affected access to higher education and job training. More
neighborhoods have convenient connections to locations that used to be more difficult
for pedestrians and bicyclists to reach, such as Parkland Community College.
Agriculture has maintained its prominent role in our local economy, even as the population
and economy grows. New construction has been concentrated in existing urban areas of the
region, which has increased population density and preserved surrounding farmland.
The KRT now connects Champaign-Urbana bicyclists and pedestrians to the Mahomet forest preserves.
Invasive species management and great care from the community has preserved and restored
these vital natural resources. Rural transportation has evolved to meet the
increasing need to connect rural residents to urban amenities such as hospitals, shopping
centers, and employers. A fixed-route rural transit service now connects Mahomet to Champaign-Urbana,
on top of the existing Rantoul Connector that brings Rantoul residents to and from Champaign-Urbana.
“This park is cool! Can we stop at the playground?” “Maybe later, we don’t want to be late
for the concert!” “This place has changed a lot!”
Bristol Place is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the City of Champaign, but you would never
guess since it was revitalized. The area has been outfitted with bicycle and pedestrian
facilities, including a greenway that follows Boneyard Creek through the expanded Bristol
Park, crossing Market Street and continuing behind the diverse range of housing types
that were developed for residents of all socio-economic levels.
Toward the northern end of the neighborhood, the Martens Center at Human Kinetics Park
offers a unique variety of community resources – from outdoor event space and soccer fields,
to classes and programs. There are opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to meet,
play, and learn here. “Dad, when we move here, can we live next
to this park?” “That would be pretty great, wouldn’t
it?” Accessible downtowns are key to strengthening
our civic character, regional economy, and engaging our unique neighborhoods. A new plaza
in downtown Champaign is a welcoming community space for residents and visitors. The plaza
accommodates public events and supports downtown businesses.
Expanded bus service to the area reduces vehicle traffic and the need for parking while increasing
bicycle and pedestrian safety. Seamless transportation, diverse, sustainable
infrastructure, and a welcoming, growing community committed to innovation. This is the future
we see for the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area!
The 2045 vision is built around specific transportation goals to improve safety, the economy, multimodal
connectivity, equity, and the environment. To learn more about our Long Range Transportation
Plan, visit our website. ccrpc.org/lrtp2045/.