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CHAMPAIGN — Not long after the new boutique DIGS opened on East Springfield Avenue this summer, a major Champaign sewer line project moved in right along with it for an extended stay.
The city’s five-phase south downtown sanitary sewer extension project — costing more than $8 million — is currently underway on Springfield Avenue.
This first phase of the project — on Springfield from Neil to Second streets — started in early August and is set to run through December, according to public works spokesman Kris Koester. Four more phases will follow next year.
“It has been a problem, but people are finding us,” said Paula Finke, a part-time employee at DIGS.
Customers can reach the shop by taking Neil Street north to Logan Street and then following the signs. Still, she said, “we don’t have the passerby traffic. That’s one of the reasons we chose this location.”
Some of the work on Springfield is already completed. The section blocked off as of Wednesday was between Neil and Water streets.
In the planning stages for several years, this project is all about the need to increase sanitary sewer capacity in the south downtown area, Koester said.
The city has posted signs to help shoppers find businesses in the construction area, and has allowed impacted businesses to post their own signs in places that normally wouldn’t be permitted, he said.
A 2018 study of the sanitary sewer system in the area generally bounded by McKinley Avenue, Church Street, the Canadian National Railroad and Springfield Avenue concluded that it was at or near capacity, according to a memo to the city council from the city’s engineering department.
If capacity isn’t expanded, Koester said, “we’d have to start limiting development.”
The first phase underway now — the largest part of the project — is to install a new sanitary sewer line beneath Springfield Avenue, along with some upgrades to the railroad viaduct area with improvements for pedestrian traffic.
Stages two through five will extend the sewer line on sections of Market, Marshall, Neil and White streets, in that order.
Phase five will include a full road reconstruction changing the section of White Street between Randolph and Neil streets from brick to concrete and bringing sidewalk curb ramps into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the city memo.
During the fourth phase, which includes Neil Street between White and Marshall streets, the road will be kept open to traffic in both directions, according to the city.
Helping pay for the project are two state grants totaling $1.7 million.