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Local News

Joliet approves Pilot Travel Center amid questions

Route 53 business drying up, gas station owner says

JOLIET – Owner Len McEnery says business is down at his Route 66 Food N Fuel since the state changed truck traffic patterns in the area.

McEnery urged the Joliet City Council on Tuesday to consider business conditions before approving a Pilot Travel Center, which also will cater to semitrailer traffic in the area.

The council voted 9-0 for the project, bypassing a planned unit development process that otherwise would have been required.

A third gas station is being contemplated for the same intersection at Route 53 and Laraway Road, although no plans have been presented, a city official said.

McEnery questioned whether there is business for everyone, especially since the Illinois Commerce Commission shut down the Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing in Elwood in late January. That changed traffic patterns around the CenterPoint Intermodal Centers in Joliet and Elwood, and has affected Route 53 business, McEnery said.

"This isn't last summer when the trucks were bumper to bumper from I-80 to Laraway," he told the council. "Our business is down 20 percent. ... There's not enough gas sales there for two businesses, much less three."

McEnery called weekend business "just awful."

"Two truck stops on that corner won't work," he said.

The city is likely to find out.

Joliet attorney Michael Hansen has said Pilot will try to open its travel center sometime this year. He said Tuesday that there will be 50 jobs at the Pilot Travel Center.

Both businesses will cater to car and truck travelers, also offering a restaurant on-site.

The council vote Tuesday also narrows the setback from Route 53 from 50 feet, which was in the original annexation agreement, to 30 feet. The setback on Laraway Road was narrowed from 50 feet to 10 feet.

Hansen said a reduction in the number of pumps at the Pilot Travel Center would have been necessary without the Laraway Road setback going down to 10 feet.

Staff recommended narrowing the setbacks to 30 feet, noting the annexation agreement was made with the thought that industrial development may occur at the site. But staff recommended against bringing the Laraway setback down to 10 feet.

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