JOLIET – In response to neighborhood outcry, the Will County Board voted Thursday to reduce the weight limit along Manhattan-Arsenal Road near the CenterPoint intermodals to deter semitrailers from using the route.
The road stretches east-west from Route 53 to Baseline Road and lies just north of the now-closed Walter Strawn Drive, previously a major access point for truckers into the intermodals.
After some debate and hearing from two residents, the County Board voted, 14-7, to reduce the weight from 15 tons to 5 tons. Democrat board members Denise Winfrey and Herbert Brooks, both representing Joliet Township, voted present.
Some County Board members questioned if the new signs will be effective. Others, such as Brooks, said they also are concerned about setting a dangerous precedent for truck access on other roads in the region.
A grassroots group of residents gathered 503 signatures for a petition requesting a solution to the truck traffic, but Will County elected leaders hesitated and said they were worried a change would lead to legal challenges.
Larry Banas, a Jackson Township resident, spoke Thursday on behalf of residents along Manhattan-Arsenal Road.
“The truck noise is hard to understand until you have the opportunity sit on a front or back porch near Manhattan Road. You literally have to pause from your conversation and wait for the trucks to pass before continuing,” Banas said. “Many of our residents have lived there for decades, along with some searching for a country life, only to see their road turn into a truck route.”
The vote was prefaced by comments from Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Phil Mock, of the civil division. He explained how the Federal Highway Act allows the county to limit the weight as long as reasonable access to the intermodals remains.
Mock said trucking companies or other businesses could bring a lawsuit claiming the county is limiting interstate commerce, but he doesn’t see that argument winning in court.
“From my understanding, we have a dedicated truck route that comes off I-55 [and Arsenal Road], which I think the courts would determine reasonable,” Mock said.
Board member Don Moran cautioned that a truck driver could bring an equal protection lawsuit if county deputies ticketed a semitrailer for using the route, but not garbage trucks or school buses that are just as heavy.
“With enforcement issues, you always have discretion. Even with semi trucks, if you stopped every third because you don’t have the manpower to stop every one, they could claim that [equal protection clause], but it wouldn’t be upheld,” Mock said.
Other board members raised concern that the move sets a dangerous precedent for other roads – such as Laraway and Weber roads – in a region that is experiencing a spike in truck traffic juxtaposed with residential areas.
Mock said the point could be made – but, again, the “reasonable access” provision is key.
Will County – which has jurisdiction over the road – lowered the speed limit from 50 to 45 mph earlier this year to address some safety concerns.