JOLIET — Local highway department heads are concerned about the pending Jan. 28 shutdown of Walter Strawn Drive — one of the main entryways trucking companies use to access two intermodal industrial parks in Elwood and Joliet.
“It's going to be a nightmare,” said Bruce Gould, Will County highway engineer, who said the move means Interstate 55 and the county-owned Arsenal Road will be inundated with semitrailers trying to enter and exit the intermodals.
The Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing must be closed by Jan. 28, after the Illinois Commerce Commission ruled last week that the crossing is too dangerous to remain open while a permanent solution to safety hazards can be found.
A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation said Tuesday the shutdown is tentatively planned for Jan. 28, weather permitting. CenterPoint Properties, the developer of both intermodals, along with trucking and logistics companies, oppose the shutdown.
Grain haulers carrying up to 88,000 pounds can use Arsenal Road, but others can only haul up to a maximum of 80,000 pounds, Gould said, noting the county does not offer overweight trucking permits for Arsenal, nor does it plan to.
Another alternative is Laraway Road, but Joliet prohibits trucks from entering the Joliet intermodal when heading southbound on the adjacent CenterPoint Way, rendering that route unusable.
Joliet officials have not considered allowing semitrailers to enter the intermodals from the north for a simple reason, said Jim Trizna, the city's public works director.
City officials do not want Joliet to end up like Elwood, which has dealt with almost-daily traffic congestion from truckers accessing the intermodals via Walter Strawn.
“We've tried to avoid that. We know it's going to tear up the roads,” Trizna said. “Even when you design roads for that, you typically never design for enough (trucks). One truck doesn't kill you. It's when you have (more than that).”
A regional impact study should completed prior to the crossing closure, Gould and Trizna said.
While staff from IDOT, Union Pacific, ICC and Elwood all agreed to the shutdown during ICC hearings, an IDOT engineer recently sent a letter to the administrative law judge overseeing the case, urging her to reconsider alternatives.
Crossing gates were broken nearly 50 times in 2013, according to village officials, who have tried to steer semitrailer traffic away from the area for some time.
Increased traffic enforcement is anticipated following the crossing shutdown next week to ensure safety, but also to stop truckers from using illegal routes, Trizna said.