Danville, a sleepy little town of 33,904 in eastern Illinois about 120 mi. south of Chicago was founded in 1827 on 80 acres donated by Guy W. Smith and the town’s namesake, Dan W. Beckwith. Recently, the Vermilion County seat saw the completion of a $7 million reconstruction project of its oldest street, just a few blocks from the busy Interstate 74 that links it to Champaign, Ill., and Indianapolis, Ind.
Main Street (U.S. 136), located in the city’s original business district, was originally no more than a dirt road. From the 1850s to the 1940s, Danville was an important coal mining area. As it grew to become a major industrial city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the thoroughfare was paved with bricks, which was overlaid with asphalt in later years.
As the Vermillion County town’s commerce increased, so too did traffic. Recent estimates of daily traffic totals of approximately 25,000 vehicles have worn out the decades-old brick base, but because the cost of repair was estimated to exceed the cost of building a new road, a plan to completely remove and replace the roadway between Pine Street and Stony Creek was implemented.
The design firm of Hutchinson Engineering Inc. was called in to consult on a plan of improvement IDOT began discussing with local property owners as long ago as June 1997. The plan’s scope called for major renovation from Pine Street to the recently improved Stone Arch Bridge over Stony Creek near Collett Street, including side street intersection reconstruction; new curb, gutter, sidewalks and driveways; and a new storm sewer system.
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the “grades and slopes of the road in relation to the buildings will not allow an overlay. The road would have to be ground down so much to meet the buildings, there would not be enough of the existing pavement thickness left to use as a base.”
Reconstruction allowed IDOT to address other issues as well, providing a safer roadway intended to reduce accidents, encourage economic development and handle anticipated traffic increases.
Accommodating more traffic will be easier now that IDOT widened narrow side streets. Existing lanes were 10 to 11 ft. (3 to 3.3 m), below the modern standard of 12 ft. (3.6). IDOT expects turns from Main Street to side streets to be easier now. Although the old surface was worn smooth and was replaced by a new surface with better friction to reduce stopping distance, bumps in the driving lanes where the side streets intersect with Main Street required leveling. Other improvements include a 2-ft.-wide (.6 m) gutter built with the curb, providing a buffer between traffic and sidewalks. A new storm sewer system will remove runoff more quickly.
Significant permanent alterations to traffic flow resulting from the project mean that Walnut and Franklin streets are no longer one-way and parking is no longer allowed on Main Street. IDOT expects the improvements and changes to traffic flow to ease congestion and enhance safety.
Let in November 2005, winter preparation work included water main construction and utility adjustments. Season One got under way in March 2006, with prime contractor Duce Construction Company out of Champaign leading the reconstruction from the Norfolk Southern Railroad to the Stone Arch Bridge.
Stage One included building a crossing guard median in the center turn lane at the railroad crossing and closing the center turn lane and passing lanes to build the main storm sewer line.
Stage Two involved removing and replacing the north half of Main Street from April to July, with Stage Three following from August to November by doing the same on the south half.
Stage Four was dedicated to painting the lane markings.
Work was suspended over the winter, resuming again in March 2007 for Season Two, which concentrated on the road from Pine Street to the Norfolk Southern Railroad.
The new storm sewer was first constructed in the center turn lane as part of Stage One, followed by removal and replacement of the north half of Main Street, as well as North Walnut Street improvements from the railroad to Franklin Street from April to June (Stage Two A), and from Franklin Street to Pine Street from June to July (Stage Two B).
Stage Three A focused on removing and replacing the south half of Main Street between Pine and Franklin streets in July, with Stage Three B doing the same from Franklin Street to the railroad from July to November. Season Two wrapped up in November during Stage Four with pavement marking painting and complete landscaping.
During the project, Duce Construction and sub-contractors Champaign Asphalt, Miller the Driller of Des Moines, Iowa, Lightning Seed Company of Toledo, Ill., Varsity Striping and Construction of Champaign, P&P Construction of Riverton, Ill., JP Excavating & Trucking of Danville, and Champaign Signal and Lighting moved 17,000 cu. yd. (13,000 cu m) of earth, laid 12,000 cu. yd. (9,100 cu m) of gravel base, poured 13,000 cu. yd. (9,900 cu m) of concrete, laid 10,000 ft. (3,050 m) of storm sewer and filled excavations with 9,000 cu. yd. (6,880 cu m) of sand.
As reported by IDOT, 9 in. (22.8 cm) of new concrete pavement were built on a 12-in. (30 cm) gravel base. Aqua Illinois installed a new water main and the city of Danville installed new street lights and updated traffic signals.
IDOT worked hard to keep motorists updated on street closures throughout the project and to remind drivers of the ban on left turns during construction. Not everyone got the message, however, leaving other motorists frustrated by traffic delays. The situation was aggravated, according to a report in the Danville Commercial-News, by multiple downtown projects.
Another project through the city along Illinois Route 1 coincided through the fall with the Main Street reconstruction. That project included patching and resurfacing Vermilion from Winter to Fairchild, along Fairchild west to Gilbert and south on Gilbert to Main Street and Memorial Bridge. However, IDOT construction field engineer Greg Idleman told the Commercial-News that construction was to be completed at night at the Main and Gilbert street intersection, at Memorial Bridge and in the first block of North Gilbert Street due to the traffic volumes. Nevertheless, complaints flew as people violated closures, traveled around barricades and insisted on turning left.
Now that work is finished, there are few complaints from motorists traveling along the improved, wider, safer two-way streets of downtown Danville. CEG
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