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Local News

City manager gives update on Joliet transportation center

JOLIET – It’s unclear where city officials would find additional funding if the downtown transportation center project costs go much above the newly estimated $46 million price tag.

The estimate – presented to Joliet City Council members during Tuesday night’s meeting – is already above the initial $42 million price tag. A more expensive scenario could eat into the city’s budget for Union Station renovations, City Manager Jim Hock told council members Tuesday.

There’s also question as to whether the Illinois Department of Transportation – which agreed to chip in $30 million towards the $46 million project – would be willing to toss in additional funding if costs do indeed go over.

According to budget documents distributed Tuesday night, just under $20 million has been spent so far. But four major components – the train station, new boarding platforms, the bus station and parking lot – remain.

Hock said during the meeting that he is in negotiations with IDOT officials about what a Plan B would look like if project costs are overrun.

“We hope the state will pitch in,” Hock said.

Councilman Jim McFarland previously asked Hock to present year-to-date expenditures and projected costs, saying citizens are questioning how much the city has paid to acquire land for the project and whether contract change orders are pushing costs beyond initial estimates.

“This is poor tracking ... poor planning on the city’s part,” McFarland said after the meeting. “We needed to get our arms around the project. We have cost overruns and we’re going to continue to have cost overruns.”

The project is about 18 months behind schedule. The city has paid $4 million to date for Knight E/A’s design and engineering work. But that figure includes about $1.7 million in additional costs associated with change orders approved since 2012, McFarland said.

The city’s share of the Joliet Gateway Project is now $9.8 million – about $2.3 million more than first estimated in 2010. Joliet’s share covers engineering, land acquisition and demolition. About $1.6 million of that is earmarked to renovations at the old Union Station.

Councilman Larry Hug suggested that city staff investigate whether the city could pursue federal grant dollars for the old Union Station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Place.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway chipped in $2.2 million. Other agencies, including Metra and Pace Suburban Bus Service, also have contributed.

In other news, the city will renewed its contract with Chicago-based Stanard & Associates, which issues exams to potential Joliet Fire Department hires. Exam questions were rumored to be leaked in 2013 but those claims were never substantiated.

The company plans to issue different tests moving forward to be on the safe side. Councilman Bob O’Dekirk first raised the issue of possible cheating on a test during a mayoral debate earlier this month.

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