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Local News

Joliet councilman wants report on transportation center costs

Construction of the Joliet Transportation Center is seen in May 2014 as a Metra train moves along the Rock Island District track near Joliet's Union Station.
Construction of the Joliet Transportation Center is seen in May 2014 as a Metra train moves along the Rock Island District track near Joliet's Union Station.

JOLIET – A Joliet city councilman, calling the project "a boondoggle," wants to know how much the downtown transportation center is costing.

"I call the project a boondoggle because nobody seems to know what's going on," Councilman Jim McFarland said Thursday, adding that he wants to know what finishing the center will cost.

"I want to make sure that the project is on budget, that we're current on any bills, and that when it's completed we can pay for it," McFarland said.

The project, called the Joliet Gateway Center, has been estimated to cost between $41 and $44 million, with the city putting up $7.5 million. Railroads also are contributing to the project.

The bulk of the cost is being carried by the state through a $32 million grant to the city. However, the city is negotiating with the Illinois Department of Transportation about the project.

City Manager Jim Hock alluded to the negotiations at the City Council's meeting Tuesday when McFarland asked for a status report on the transportation center.

"We're in negotiations with IDOT right now, and I don't think it's appropriate to disclose to the public what we are negotiating at this point," Hock said.

Hock said he planned to give a status report to the council after reaching a memorandum of understanding with IDOT.

When McFarland insisted on some kind of report on project costs, Hock said he could provide that.

"I can give you year-to-date expenditures and projected expenditures," Hock said.

Hock said he would prepare such a list, but he did not give an overall cost estimate at Tuesday's meeting. He could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Lisa Dorothy, the city's project manager for the transportation center, on Thursday said she would not discuss the project's finances until first meeting with Hock and the city's finance director.

McFarland said he wants a status report because he hears from citizens questioning how much the city has paid to acquire land for the project and whether contract change orders are pushing costs beyond initial estimates.

"Even though it's a good project for the city, we still need to know if we're within budget and what it's going to take to get to completion," he said.

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