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Local News

Elwood mayor seeks IDOT secretary’s aid

Looks for help on CenterPoint issue

ELWOOD – Elwood village officials say they are reaching out to state officials for help in dealing with safety issues created when trucks and cars share the same road.

Village President William Offerman sent a letter Monday to the acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation “to ask you for your help” in dealing with increased truck traffic.

A spokesman for the village said the letter was sent before two semitrailer collisions on Interstate 55 the same day in nearby Channahon Township resulted in the deaths of five people, including the driver of a semitrailer.

In the letter, Offerman outlined the ongoing conflict between the village and CenterPoint Properties, the developer of two intermodal-based industrial parks in Elwood and neighboring Joliet, over the numbers of trucks at a railroad crossing where Elwood tried to restrict traffic earlier this year.

The letter was sent just two days before the Elwood Village Board voted to repeal truck restrictions passed in May that aimed to reduce the number of vehicles crossing the Union Pacific Railroad track at Walter Strawn Drive.

Offerman did not comment about the vote at that meeting. But an attorney for the village said the costs of litigation brought by CenterPoint and other companies would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Both Elwood and CenterPoint claim the other side is trying to foil a resolution of the problem, which includes trucks clashing with funeral processions headed for Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

Michael Scotti, an attorney for CenterPoint, said a number of solutions, including at least one proposed by state officials, “have met resistance from Elwood. Elwood is not participating in any solution that they are not a proponent of.”

In his letter, Offerman asked Acting IDOT Secretary Erica Borggren to get involved in an Illinois Commerce Commission investigation into solutions at the railroad crossing. An ICC hearing on the matter is scheduled for Aug. 20.

Offerman also pointed to problems with trucks cutting into funeral processions going to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, and wrote, “I hope you will agree that the actions of these trucks and intermodal operators are dangerous and incredibly disrespectful to not only our residents but the dedicated veterans and their mourners and will consider lending your support on this issue.”

Scotti said CenterPoint is meeting with cemetery representatives to try to work out a solution.

“CenterPoint cares about the residents of the area,” he said. “They care about regional safety. They care about the veterans.”

While Offerman declined to comment on the matter, Police Chief Fred Hayes did talk about trucking issues after the Wednesday meeting in which the local ordinance was repealed.

“Infrastructure in place today – designed in the ’50s and ’60s, doesn’t meet the present-day demand,” Hayes said, adding that large trucks create the “potential for a much more disastrous crash to occur because weight and mass wins every accident.”

As president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Hayes said he hears concerns from throughout the state from those experiencing similar issues.

One of the positives in dealing with the issues, he said, is open communication: “Between local officials, I can say, unequivocally, on the public safety level, police and fire, we talk on a daily basis.”

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