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Local News

ICC grants IDOT request for rehearing on controversial Elwood crossing

CHICAGO — The Illinois Commerce Commission on Monday granted the Illinois Department of Transportation's request for rehearing in the Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing case.

The additional hearings will give the state transportation agency opportunity to present new evidence in favor of the crossing's reopening, ICC spokeswoman Beth Bosch said Monday.

The 3-1 vote came Monday despite ICC staff's recent recommendation that the full board deny the request. An attorney for Elwood also urged the full board's denial.

The developments come more than a month after the ICC – which governs the state’s railways – ordered the Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing be shut down amid safety concerns.

While IDOT sided with Elwood and other parties leading up the Jan. 28 closure, the state agency reversed its opinion last month, joining CenterPoint Properties in a request to the Illinois Commerce Commission to reopen the crossing.

The full ICC board on Monday denied the state agency's request to immediately reopen the crossing.

In its application filed last month, IDOT staff explained that the crossing’s closure has negatively impacted public safety and has “added significant additional commercial vehicle traffic to an already-congested transportation system.”

IDOT staff also cited the “debilitating impact” the closure has had on commercial vehicle traffic access to and from the two CenterPoint intermodals, noting a regional impact study was not completed before the closure.

In a press release from Elwood, Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes called the move a "backdoor attempt to re-open the crossing."

“The closing of the crossing has only made the residents of the village safer," Hayes said in the release.

Thousands of trucks have used the 1.7-mile stretch of road just west of Illinois Route 53 daily to reach the BNSF intermodal in Elwood or the Union Pacific intermodal in Joliet. That route now is blocked.

ICC staff last month urged the full board to deny the request, on the grounds both IDOT and CenterPoint's attorneys had essentially waived opportunities to challenge the ICC's Jan. 28 crossing closure order and failed to object to the Walter Strawn Drive closure within the proper deadline, according to case documents.

ICC staff member Jennifer Anderson previously noted IDOT's recent request for the ICC administrative law judge consider a rogue letter sent outside proper procedures by an IDOT employee seeking the closure's reopening.

“This is simply unjustified,” the document states. “There is no excuse for IDOT to be given a 'second bite of the apple' when, having the same deadline and having been afforded the same opportunities” as other parties in the case to object to the closure during and after the hearing process.

Bosch said as part of the ICC board granting IDOT's request, the administrative law judge overseeing the case will schedule additional hearings.

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