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Local News

Judge says Elwood must stop truck detour – for now

ELWOOD – A federal judge ordered Elwood to lift its recently enacted restrictions on truck traffic by Tuesday morning.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman on Friday issued a temporary restraining order in favor of CenterPoint Properties and other plaintiffs who argued that the new Elwood traffic rules violated federal law.

The temporary order is in effect until another hearing that could take place later this month.

The village of Elwood released a statement saying the order is in effect for two weeks. A lawyer for CenterPoint Properties, one of the plaintiffs that sued to have the restrictions lifted, said that the next hearing could be four weeks away.

For now, the village will have to remove barriers and cease enforcement of the new truck detours as of 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Mike Scotti, an attorney for CenterPoint, said the temporary restraining order is a good omen for his client's case. Scotti said the judge issued the order because "he felt we had a high likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case."

CenterPoint Properties has developed intermodal-anchored industrial parks that neighbor each other in Elwood and Joliet. The company was joined in the lawsuit by Union Pacific, which has an intermodal yard in the Joliet park, and APL Logistics, a truck distribution company in the CenterPoint complex.

The Elwood Village Board on May 21 approved an ordinance that redirected truck traffic away from State Route 53 and Walter Strawn Drive

The dispute between the village and trucking interests has been heating up. Elwood this week released a video showing a truck breaking a railroad gate as it tried to beat a train at the crossing near Route 53 and Walter Strawn.

Village officials said such incidents happened more than 50 times in 2013. They said the trucking restrictions were needed for the sake of public safety.

"While they (Elwood officials) looked at local safety, they did not take regional safety into account," Scotti said. "It created greater hazards in other areas of the region."

Scotti said by steering trucks away from certain sections of Elwood, the village created hazards for Interstate 55, Arsenal Road, and some sections of Laraway Road because trucks had to find other ways to get to destinations.

CenterPoint and the other plaintiffs also argued that they their business was harmed by the truck detours and that Elwood was illegally interfering with interstate commerce.

Elwood officials could not be reached for comment.

In a statement issued after the Friday hearing, however, Elwood gave a different version of the impact of the judge's order.

"Using a federal statute that disallows states, towns and localities from regulating railroads, the judge decided that, for a two week period, the barricades must be removed, preliminarily finding they effectively regulate the railroad," the Elwood statement said. "This hearing is characterized by a low standard of proof and the plaintiff was not required to supply full facts supporting its argument, which are saved for the full hearing."

The village said the traffic restrictions are designed to move trucks to the interchange at I-55 and Arsenal Road, which was completed in 2012 "to provide relief from traffic congestion."

In addition to the federal case, the Illinois Commerce Commission is holding a hearing on Wednesday on the potential hazards from heavy traffic at the intersection of Route 53 and Walter Strawn. The nearby railroad crossing has the highest number of crashed gates in the state.

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