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Historical Review

This section offers a brief review of the history of transportation and transportation planning in the Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area.


Transportation Network

1855 | Inter-Urban Rail

A horse-drawn “omnibus” connected travelers between the county seat of Urbana and the Illinois Central Railroad depot in Champaign. This line was upgraded in 1863, with the Urbana Railroad Company operating a mule-powered trolley on a rail between the two points.

1891 | Electrified Inter-Urban Rail

The previous inter-urban rail was electrified in 1891, and expanded in the following years to include services between:

  • Urbana
  • University of Illinois campus
  • Illinois Central depot
  • Champaign County Fairgrounds
  • Eisner Park
Interurban omnibus, Main Street, Urbana.
Interurban omnibus, Main Street, Urbana. Image: Champaign County Historical Archives

This inter-urban railroad line, along with several other lines, was consolidated into the Illinois Traction System in the early 1900s.

1903 | The First Electric Railway

William B. McKinley established the first electric inter-urban railway connecting Urbana, Champaign, and Danville. The railway was extended beyond Springfield, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri by 1912, and was discontinued in 1953.

Letter connecting Urbana, Champaign, and Danville.
Letter connecting Urbana, Champaign, and Danville. Image: Champaign County Historical Archives

1937 | Illinois Terminal

The Illinois Traction System, which consisted of a series of consolidated inter-urban rails, was renamed the Illinois Terminal Railroad Company.

Illinois Traction System cart.
Illinois Traction System cart. Image: Champaign County Historical Archives

Previous Long Range Transportation Plans

Pre 1960 | The First Street and Highway Plans

Prior to 1960, two major street and highway plans had been completed for Champaign-Urbana. Civic design classes at the University of Illinois prepared the first regional plan, and Swanson Associates completed the first comprehensive plan. Swan Associates proposed an efficient transportation network to improve street network irregularities.

1960 | Major Street and Highway Plan

Harland Bartholomew and Associates prepared A Major Street and Highway Plan for the Champaign-Urbana Urban Area for the State of Illinois Division of Highways. During the 1960’s, Champaign-Urbana experienced rapid urban growth, creating an immediate need for the Long Range Transportation Planning (LRTP) process. The proposed plan was based on detailed studies of:

  • Anticipated population increase
  • Land use
  • Vehicular travel in the Champaign-Urbana urbanized area

The proposed routes were primarily determined by the economic and transportation needs of the growing urban population. The plan was written to guide the development of a healthy street system based on the existing transportation network.

1970 | Comprehensive Transportation Plan

To accommodate the transportation needs of the projected population for the next 20 years, Harland Bartholomew and Associates prepared the first comprehensive transportation plan for the Champaign-Urbana Urban Area in 1970. This plan summarized transportation data and made recommendations for the implementation of short and long range improvements, as well as ongoing transportation planning and operations.

1979 | Major Review of the Comprehensive Long Range Transportation Plan

Apart from planning for a safe, efficient and economical transportation system, the 1979 plan update worked to incorporate different land uses within a transportation network. The plan included a variety of factors affecting the transportation system in the area, including:

  • Land use
  • The development of a mass transit plan
  • Vehicle registration
  • A bikeway plan to accommodate increased biking activity
  • Transportation funding resources

This plan focused on guiding growth and expansion in harmony with the natural environment, and aimed to accommodate a system that would safely and conveniently encompass a variety of transportation modes.

1982 | Major Review of the Comprehensive Long Range Transportation Plan

The 1982 LRTP review recommended different short and long-range transportation improvement projects prioritized by urgency. Some of the projects included in this plan were signal enhancements, road widening, and implementing then-modern technology to improve intersection crossings.

1986 | Long Range Transportation Plan Update

The 1986 LRTP update involved an assessment of previous and ongoing transportation plans and recommendations. Specifically, the plan prioritized recommendations from previous transportation plans that reflected both the changing growth patterns and the area wide priorities within available financial resources.

1994 | Long Range Transportation Plan and Mobility Plan: C-U in 2020

In 1994, Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study (CUUATS) staff updated the long range transportation plan, in combination with a new Mobility Plan, for a 25-year planning horizon. This plan went further than previous plans since it included existing data and future recommendations for the following elements of the transportation system:

  • Highways
  • Bicycles
  • Pedestrians
  • Public transit
  • Land use
  • Rails
  • Air
  • Freight

At that time, the urbanized area included the City of Champaign, the City of Urbana, and the Village of Savoy.

1999 | Long Range Transportation Plan and Mobility Plan: C-U in 2030

CUUATS updated the LRTP and Mobility Plan to cover a 30-year period. This plan aimed to prepare for the future needs of an estimated county population of 203,847 by the year 2030. At that time, the mass transit system’s primary service was a fixed route and scheduled system, with principal transfer locations in:

  • Downtown Champaign (Illinois Terminal)
  • Downtown Urbana (Lincoln Square)
  • University of Illinois (Illini Union)

The plan called for additional investment in rail services, and suggested investigating the feasibility of establishing a high-speed rail corridor along the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale-Memphis line. The plan also recommended studying ways to increase air travel at Willard Airport.

2004 | Long Range Transportation Plan: 2025

CUUATS published the LRTP 2025 in 2004. Overall, the plan aimed to:

  • Decrease congestion by increasing mobility
  • Decrease dependency on cars by offering alternative transportation modes
  • Decrease fringe development by promoting core development
  • Decrease new construction by including transportation system management

This plan also included portions of Bondville in the study area for the first time, and established the use of performance measures to track progress towards goals and objectives over time.

2009 | Long Range Transportation Plan: Choices 2035

The LRTP 2035 further developed the process of utilizing performance goals in long-range transportation planning by using annual report cards to help evaluate ongoing performance and guide future decision-making for the region. The plan also addressed land use and transportation issues to emphasize the need for more equity in the community, and began shifting to a multi-modal approach when planning for future transportation improvements.

Urbana Middle School students cross Vine Street with assistance from a crossing guard
Urbana Middle School students cross Vine Street with assistance from a crossing guard Image: CCRPC

2014 | Long Range Transportation Plan: Sustainable Choices 2040

The LRTP 2040 used improved modeling tools and an expanded public involvement campaign to define the region’s current transportation issues and future transportation goals. Additional models and an expanded definition of transportation-related issues included:

  • A more substantive consideration of local transportation costs
  • Population health as it is related to active modes of transportation
  • Accessibility to different modes
  • Economic development
Youth Visioning Meeting, LRTP 2040.
Youth Visioning Meeting, LRTP 2040. Image: CCRPC

This plan also continued to build on the practice of utilizing performance goals and annual report cards to track ongoing performance.

Policies and Organizations

1964 | Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study (CUUATS)

The Federal Highway Act of 1962 established CUUATS as a regional planning agency in 1964. The Federal-Aid Highway Act required that in urbanized areas, programs for Federal-Aid Highway projects must be based on a “…continuing and comprehensive transportation planning process carried on cooperatively by states and local communities.” This legislation established the basis for metropolitan transportation planning used today.

1974 | Metropolitan Planning Organization

In 1974, the State of Illinois designated the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the area, in order to encourage efficient regional planning efforts. At that time, CUUATS was incorporated into CCRPC as the regional transportation entity, where it remains today.

1991 | Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA)

ISTEA is a federal act that recognized changing development patterns, diversity within metropolitan areas, and the importance of providing more control for MPOs over transportation in their regions. ISTEA had significant effects on the long range transportation planning process, by stressing the importance of integrating environmental and intermodal considerations within a financially constrained future, and making MPOs responsible for developing Long Range Transportation Plans within their respective areas. LRTPs are to be developed in cooperation with both the State and transit operators.

1998 | Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21)

TEA-21 was enacted June 9, 1998 as Public Law 105-178. TEA-21 authorized the Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for the 6-year period 1998-2003. The TEA-21 Restoration Act, enacted July 22, 1998, provided technical corrections to the original law.

2005 | Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A

#Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) ###

SAFETEA-LU built on the firm foundation of ISTEA and TEA-21, supplied the funds and refined the programmatic framework for investments needed to maintain and grow our vital transportation infrastructure.

2012 | Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)

MAP-21 was a milestone for the U.S. economy and the Nation’s surface transportation program. By transforming the policy and programmatic framework for investments to guide the system’s growth and development, MAP-21 created a streamlined and performance-based surface transportation program and built on many of the highway, transit, bike, and pedestrian programs and policies established in 1991.

2015 | Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act)

The FAST Act was the first federal law in over a decade to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation infrastructure planning and investment. The FAST Act maintains focus on safety, keeps intact the established structure of the various highway-related programs, continues efforts to streamline project delivery and, for the first time, provides a dedicated source of federal dollars for freight projects.