JOLIET – Traffic volumes in Will County will continue to rise while safety along local, state and county roads will degrade with the expected expansion of CenterPoint Properties’ intermodals, according to the results of a recent Illinois Department of Transportation traffic study.
The IDOT study sought to find out if the closure of a controversial railroad crossing in Elwood increased traffic in the vicinity of and along Laraway Road and whether traffic patterns changed near the Arsenal Road and Elwood International Port Road intersection.
Both Laraway and Arsenal roads – considered the only remaining access points into the intermodals – experienced an increase in truck traffic and delays with the absence of Walter Strawn Drive, according to the study.
IDOT now has plans to take over the county-owned Arsenal Road, alleviating much of the concerns the state agency raised earlier this year when urging the Illinois Commerce Commission to reopen the Elwood crossing, citing a “debilitating impact” on commercial vehicle access to and from the intermodal centers.
The study also warns roads will continue to degrade as the Joliet Union Pacific intermodal, which was only halfway built out at the end of 2014, continues to grow and attract more business to the region.
Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes said village officials have tried for some time to steer truck traffic away from the area, realizing the dangers of unplanned development – as seen with the development of CenterPoint’s intermodals in Elwood.
“If we want to look ahead five, 10 years, it’s going to get continually worse,” Hayes said.
In the state agency’s motion to withdraw, IDOT attorney Doug Felder noted a dramatic increase in tickets issued by Elwood for truck length and overweight violations.
“The apparent dramatic increase in illegal truck movements within Elwood may be a product of the [closure],” the motion states.
Hayes said the increase enforcement is in response to a petition from area residents.
“They wanted something to be done about the trucks coming through,” Hayes said. “We need to continue to do this to keep trucks accountable for using unauthorized roads not designed for them.”
Trucks often use unauthorized routes into the intermodals, he said, forcing Will County and Elwood police to issue tickets.
Michael Scotti, the attorney representing CenterPoint Properties in the ongoing ICC hearing, said Thursday he has yet to review the IDOT study. He stressed the Oak Brook-based developer remains equally concerned about traffic safety in the region.
The diversion of truck traffic to Laraway Road initially prompted Joliet to consider charging for overweight permits, which would help fund road maintenance needs, City Manager Jim Hock said.
But the city no longer has plans to do so, he said.
“We’re trying to facilitate the economic development that’s going in and out of there,” Hock said, noting Joliet issues permits for up to 88,000 pounds.
Permits will not be issued for 92,000 pounds on Laraway, Hock said.
“The road was built for 90,000 pounds,” he said. “You allow any more than that the road is going to fall apart.”