MAHOMET — When it comes to challenges in transportation and infrastructure and difficulties in keeping a comprehensive web of roads, bicycle trails, sidewalks and other routes of movement intact to navigate around the village, Mahomet seemingly has them all.
Federal roads? Check.
State roads? Check.
A winding river? Check.
It’s clear where this is going.
“(These are) all kind of elements that make challenges for preparing for basically logical and effective infrastructure,” said Kelly Pfeifer, village of Mahomet community development director. “It is a system. If there is one gap in a sidewalk, it is no longer a system.”
Where the village does not have jurisdiction, the roadblocks — so to speak — can be great.
“Those challenges make it all the more important that we have a strong comp plan, that it provides enough guidance to realize not just what the village boundaries (are) and that land needs to be, but to acknowledge the entire community,” Pfeifer said.
Of course, the comprehensive plan adopted by the village in 2016 addresses transportation and infrastructure. The topics are important enough to the village’s future that there is, outside of the comprehensive plan, a transportation master plan — but the draft of that plan has not been adopted.
According to village President Sean Widener, the draft had sections that needed to be reviewed, and the board at the time also wanted to wait on revisions for its new engineer to come on board.
Still, village leaders have a roadmap for transportation.
“Basically we use the transportation portions of the comprehensive plan,” said village Administrator Patrick Brown.
The comp plan by itself says quite a bit about transportation and infrastructure. In one portion, it notes: “The accessibility and quality of transportation often defines what future development occurs in an area.”
Not only automobile transportation is considered. Pedestrian and bike connectivity is part of a comprehensive look at getting around the village.
“The ultimate goal of the transportation section is to support multiple types of motorized and non-motorized modes of transportation, minimize congestion, improve emergency vehicle response time and reduce existing hazards,” the comp plan notes.
Highways and streets
The plan offers “functional classification” of roads, noting that they are “classified according to a hierarchical system that is based on roadway characteristics.”
First, of course, are interstates. The village has two interchanges onto Interstate 74, and it is located approximately 3.5 miles north of Interstate 72, which can be accessed via Illinois 47.
“Arterials” are noted next as “higher capacity roadways with the intent to move traffic from collector roads to interstates.”
Arterials in Mahomet include Illinois 47 (Lombard Street/Division Street) and U.S. 150 (Oak Street).
“Collectors” are roads that are typcially two lanes and offer access to adjacent arterials. The comp plan notes that these also link land uses including residential neighborhoods, parks and schools.
“Village collectors” are in or near the more heavily populated center of the community, as the plan states, while “rural collectors” are within growth areas and are essentially the county road system.
Finally, the comp plan identifies “local roads,” or those within residential areas, for the most part.
Barriers to connectivity are listed in the plan, including “varied local terrain, stream corridors and rail corridors.”
“Improvements should be prioritized based on a number of factors including traffic volume and the severity of the misalignment,” or intersections that do not offer a 90-degree angle, identified as “ideal for efficient traffic flow and traffic safety,” the comp plan states.
The capacity of Mahomet and area roadways is a related topic among the plan’s pages, with school-related congestion noted as significant but “largely limited to congestion surrounding Mahomet-Seymour Community School facilities during the early morning and evening when parents are dropping off or picking up their children.”
Locations that the comp plan identifies as major thoroughfares are no surprise.
“The most traveled segments of the Mahomet-area roadway network are on U.S. 150 between Illinois 47 and Prairie View Road (I-74 interchange). In this area, average daily traffic (ADT) counts range between 9,000 and 10,000 vehicles,” the 2016 comp plan states.
“In general, Mahomet’s existing roadway infrastructure is currently sufficient and meets the community’s existing needs for access and circulation to residential, retail and employment areas,” according to the plan. “... as development occurs, some roadways will need to be enhanced to accommodate higher traffic volumes and additional turning movements related to adjacent residential and commercial development.”
The plan also notes a need for improved pedestrian and bike connectivity throughout Mahomet.
‘We don’t build roads’
Discuss the comp plan, and transportation and infrastructure, with multiple village officials, and more than one offers a notation: The village itself isn’t in the business of construction. Developers do that in order to have access to, for example, new subdivisions.
“We don’t build roads. We don’t build houses. We don’t build businesses. The only thing we can do is foster the environment for those to succeed. How they succeed is kind of out of our grasp,” Widener said.
But the village must plan for roadways that, following the above example, a subdivision developer wants to add in order to have access to any planned new cluster of homes.
“If we didn’t have a major street plan and a network planned, we would be subjected to people who want to come in and develop all local roads,” Pfeifer said.
Village leaders have to consider all aspects of infrastructure — utilities, public space, storm water drainage and more — in planning; hence, the comprehensive plan. Pfeifer gives an example:
“When we look at annexation, it is easier for us to implement the goals, the plans (of the village as a whole) when we have some jurisdiction in those areas,” she said. “One gap can make a tremendous different effect in the functionality of our entire network.”
The comprehensive plan, then, helps give village leaders of the past, present and future a “big-picture” view of Mahomet’s growth and expected needs for transportation and its companion, infrastructure. That helps drive decisions when builders come to leaders with plans for land they want to develop.
“If we didn’t have the bigger picture (and) we didn’t know how the whole systems are generally going to work, then anything they put on paper ... it would all look just fine no matter what it was,” Pfeifer said. “But you can’t look at it that way. There are opportunities and there constraints on developers.”
While landowners may look at their current plans, experience and expectations, the village has to have a wider view, she added.
“The comp plan says, well that’s fine, but your view is too narrow for us to be responsive to. You’re going to have to work for the greater good of our entire system,” Pfeifer said.
“You can’t tell by looking at the land how developable it is,” she added. “It isn’t about the surface. It is about where is drainage going, how can it be served by sanitary service, which is big,” and other factors such as street traffic and access for emergency services.
“Those are the things that people also don’t understand,” Pfeifer said.
Current and upcoming projects
This year’s improvements on Sunny Acres Road between U.S. 150 (Oak Street) and South Mahomet Road are one step that is part of overall planning for Champaign County, said village Engineer Ellen Hedrick. The effort is replacing most of that 40-plus-year-old pavement and adding a wider shoulder, although the traffic lanes themselves remain the same width.
Residents Alfonso and Kathryn Valdes, who live along Sunny Acres Road, have had generalized criticism for village leaders and how growth and transportation are being handled.
“What I see happening in Mahomet is that they’re building, building, building, but they’re not doing anything about increasing roads or thinking about traffic flow and that sort of thing, so we’ll go through all this and then in the end, we’re not going to be better off,” Kathryn Valdes told the Citizen this spring. “There’s so much building, but they’ve got to think about traffic flow and how it impacts all the individual homes that are already here.”
Village staffers say they do just that.
For example, when it comes to South Mahomet Road located near the south end of Sunny Acres Road, a big new project is coming, and the village actually will be responsible for some construction in this case.
“That’s our exception to the rule,” Hedrick said.
The road is planned for extension east to help provide a route to the Middletown Prairie Elementary School complex, which is expected to grow to include a junior high school building sometime in the next five to seven years, according to Mahomet-Seymour school district Superintendent Lindsey Hall.
“That is definitely a part of the comprehensive plan,” Hedrick said of the South Mahomet Road extension.
“It’s long-term transportation planning,” Brown said.
“Circulation to the southern portion of the village is cut off basically from the east side,” Hedrick said, and the South Mahomet Road project is expected to improve that. The road will be built to the east first to Churchill Road, which will be extended south from the school complex. Eventually, South Mahomet Road will meet Prairieview Road further to the east, Brown said.
Brown and Hedrick said other upcoming work on the village’s infrastructure will be a refocus on maintenance on “old town Mahomet,” such as State Street to U.S. 150 and west of Division.
“We still have some more work to do. From there, we’ll go outward,” Brown said.
Oak Creek and Cross Creek have been identified as needing attention.
“They received so much traffic from all the adjacent subdivisions that they really have broken down,” Hedrick said.
Repairing roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure — and the planning of such things — may not make many headlines, but it’s necessary work.
“These are important things that are kind of behind the scenes,” Brown said.