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Local News

Odd IDOT letter filed in Elwood crossing case

ICC decision expected Wednesday

A semitrailer turns onto Walter Strong Drive off of Route 53 in Elwood in August.
A semitrailer turns onto Walter Strong Drive off of Route 53 in Elwood in August.

CHICAGO – A final decision is expected Wednesday by the Illinois Commerce Commission on whether to temporarily shut down a controversial railroad crossing in Elwood.

The Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing has been a point of contention for months, having pinned Elwood village officials against CenterPoint Properties, the developer of two nearby trucking intermodals, in a series of hearings on how to best address safety concerns there.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has supported closing the crossing, but a letter filed just before the holidays by an IDOT attorney offering a different opinion has drawn the attention of CenterPoint’s attorney, Michael Scotti. CenterPoint wants the crossing to stay open.

The letter, written by John Fortmann, IDOT’s Region One Engineer, states alternatives to the closure are worth considering and that, “at a minimum, an impact study should be completed” prior to the temporary closure.

“In any event, I have no idea what’s going on inside of IDOT except what was filed,” Scotti said Tuesday. “But the judge should take this into account because IDOT is a governmental agency charged with ensuring public safety of motorists on Illinois highways.”

He said several calls made to IDOT’s attorney, Lawrence Parrish, were unreturned on Tuesday.

But Paul Streicher, attorney for Elwood, disagreed because the letter – sent only to the administrative law judge and not other parties in the case – was filed outside of proper procedure.

“The ex-parte letter filed by the IDOT traffic engineer is not part of the record in this case, nor is it consistent with IDOT’s legal position that the crossing should be closed without further study,” Streicher said. “And the ICC, as [the letter] is not part of the official record, should not consider it.”

If the full ICC board decides to shut down the crossing, it would close within two weeks, according to an ICC administrative law judge’s recommendation.

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