JOLIET – Judge Jessica Colon-Sayre and her staff did a pretty good job “keeping traffic moving” Friday as more than 800 Elwood traffic defendants came to the Will County Courthouse.
While a typical morning starts with about 200 files for the judge to process, there were 830 violations on the docket Friday for the Village of Elwood’s monthly court date. Among those were the expected speeding, insurance and seat belt violations, but about three out of every five cases called were for truck drivers using village streets.
“[The number of tickets issued] wasn’t an intentional statement, but with the closing of Walter Strawn Drive there has been an increase in violators and this reflects our enforcement of that,” Police Chief Fred Hayes said.
The Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing just west of Illinois Route 53 was closed Jan. 28, blocking off one of the main access points truckers used to reach the Elwood and Joliet industrial park intermodals.
The closure followed a ruling earlier in January by the Illinois Commerce Commission that the crossing was too dangerous to remain open.
Trucks are expected to use Interstate 55 and Arsenal Road to access the intermodals. The state is preparing to take over Arsenal Road from Will County between Interstate 55 and Baseline Road, allowing the Illinois Department of Transportation to make permanent upgrades to accommodate the heavy truck traffic.
CenterPoint Properties, the developer of the two intermodals, along with trucking and logistics companies, has opposed the shutdown.
Many truckers were cited for “disobeying a traffic control device” by ignoring the posted signs that prohibit trucks and “vehicle length violation” for having a truck on the streets. Drivers who pleaded guilty to the length violation, which is not a moving violation, were fined $350 and the traffic control ticket was dismissed.
A portable barrier was set up in the first-floor hallway to direct defendants with last names A to L and M to Z to separate lines before they entered the courtroom where bailiffs coordinated everyone ready to approach. Colon-Sayre said Judge Carmen Goodman volunteered to set up for cases in the room next door and three other judges also offered assistance.
“I knew this was coming and was able to prepare for it. I don’t know what [the volume] will be next month,” Colon-Sayre said.
The judge said the village and the county will both receive a percentage of any fines she imposed Friday.