ELWOOD — Will County officials say they are doing all they can to address the concerns of residents living along a stretch of Manhattan-Arsenal Road near the intermodals experiencing a heavy uptick in truck traffic since the closure of the Walter-Strawn Drive railroad crossing.
But the village of Elwood and residents in the area — including 500 who signed a petition calling for a solution — say it's hardly enough, arguing the county should transfer jurisdictional responsibility to the village.
"As a home-rule community, we believe Elwood, if [the county] were to transfer jurisdiction to us, would be able to put the necessary restrictions to eliminate commercial truck traffic," said Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes, who has partnered with the Will County Sheriff's Office to step up enforcement in the area.
But County Executive Larry Walsh Sr. said Elwood brought the issue on itself when local officials supported the Illinois Commerce Commission's decision to close Walter Strawn Drive — previously a major access point to the intermodals from Route 53. The closure shifted traffic to local roads, he said.
The County Board is scheduled to vote Thursday to reduce the speed limit to 45 mph along Manhattan-Arsenal Road between Route 53 and Brandon Road to increase safety, Walsh Sr. said.
Flashing signs clearly state the road has a 15-ton weight limit, he said. State law prohibits the county from making exceptions for school buses and garbage trucks if the weight were lowered to 5 tons as requested.
Hayes said that's why the village, which has home-rule authority, is pushing for a jurisdictional transfer.
"I think we're better positioned from a local standpoint to address a local issue," he said.
Mary and Bob Barney, both 59, of Elwood, live on Tehle Road, just off Manhattan-Arsenal Road. The couple said the truck traffic has always been an issue.
Trucks using Manhattan-Arsenal Road often inadvertently end up on Tehle Road, which is "barely a two-lane road," Mary Barney said.
"It's an old country road," she said. "It's like a driveway. It's totally not designed for trucks."
As for trucks driving along Manhattan-Arsenal Road, the couple said they're loud and obnoxious — especially at night.
"We built our home 30 years ago. Back then, there was no traffic. People ask me what was the nuisance back then. Back then, you'd get behind a farmer," Bob Barney said. "Now, you can hear the trucks in the middle of the night."
Lowering the speed limit and additional signage isn't enough, Bob Barney said.