JOLIET — Will County officials may have to take the reins in solving issues surrounding the recent Walter Strawn Drive shutdown if they intend to keep trucking and logistics companies that use the CenterPoint industrial park from going elsewhere.
“We didn't cause this, but Joliet, the county and the state are probably the ones that are going to solve this,” said Nick Palmer, chief of staff for County Executive Larry Walsh. “I think the county is trying to take a leadership role, but we're still working with all the stakeholders.”
The Illinois Commerce Commission ruled last month to shut down the Walter Strawn crossing amid safety concerns, forcing thousands of trucks away from Illinois Route 53 and onto Interstate 55 and the county-owned Arsenal Road.
Issues surrounding the shutdown were brought to the forefront during the Will County Board's Executive Committee meeting on Thursday.
“These companies do have other options," Palmer said during the meeting. "I mean, the Chicagoland region is attractive, and we're attractive, but if it becomes too difficult, they could go somewhere else and we don't want that to happen."
7,300 permits in 11 days
Highway Engineer Bruce Gould said Thursday he has issued about 7,300 overweight truck permits over the past 11 days, which will easily outpace the 16,000 sold in all of 2014.
County Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, said Thursday the county needs to work on short-term solutions to the problem.
“We have an economic engine here in Will County that is significant. We need to keep the wheels turning here while we work on permanent solutions,” Moustis said. “In the meantime, you will hear complaints, and we have to keep these wheels turning.”
A 2008 county ordinance prohibits overweight trucks carrying more than 80,000 pounds along the county-owned Arsenal Road, but makes exception for grain haulers and those carrying non-divisible loads up to 88,000 pounds.
'You ain't see nothing yet'
Members of a fairly new Freight Advisory Council met for the first time on Friday, John Greuling, president and CEO for the Will County Center for Economic Development, told committee members. The group is comprised primarily of representatives from the private sector, including retailers as well as trucking and logistics companies.
"These folks, they depend on good roads, good road networks and good systems," Greuling said. "They understand there's costs involved. They're not shy for paying those costs, as long as they know that money is going back into that infrastructure."
Greuling said a regional freight study should be conducted.
"I hate to say it this way, but we ain't seen nothing yet," Greuling said. "There's a lot of land to be developed that's already zoned and entitled for distribution and industrial use. And if we don't have a good understanding of where this freight is originating from and where it's going to, we're going to be chasing our tails for the next 25 years."