JOLIET – The city expects to resume work on a new train station after getting tentative approval from the state to award bids on the project, Joliet officials announced Monday.
“We anticipate the final approval will come at the end of the month,” Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said Tuesday as he announced the news at the City Council meeting.
Final approval would end a stalemate that has lasted since August, when the Illinois Department of Transportation refused to approve a contractor for the job. State officials were concerned because not enough money is available to build a new Pace bus station, which was part of the original plan.
But Joliet officials, and even Pace, were in favor of moving ahead with the train station and completing the bus depot when more money is available.
Deputy City Manager Steve Jones said if contracts can be awarded at the end of the month, the train station should open by May 2017 and new commuter platforms for the Heritage Corridor line should be ready for use by early 2017.
Jones said final approval is expected once the state issues bonds that would pay for the project. The bonds are not expected to be held up because of the state’s financial problems, he said.
The train station and commuter platform are part of a multi-modal project funded with $30 million of state funding. Total costs are just under $50 million with additional funding coming from Joliet, other transit agencies and freight railroads that benefit from a realignment of the tracks running through downtown. The original estimate for the total project was $42 million. Jones said another $3.4 million will be needed to construct the bus station. Joliet will pursue federal transportation funds available for such projects.
The City Council unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with Will County in which Joliet will contribute $10 million over 20 years to the construction of a future county courthouse to ensure that it is built downtown.
The city also will waive construction fees and bond requirements valued at about $2 million. The Will County Board is expected to vote on the agreement on Thursday.
Council members said they want to hear from Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera by the next City Council meeting on Feb. 2 whether he plans to make a proposal for township control of Bicentennial Park.
Vera told the City Council at a meeting in September that he believed the township would be able to restore past events that have been cut at the park since the city reduced funding during the recession.
At the time, Vera said he expected the township board to vote in October on whether to negotiate an arrangement with the city. But the matter has yet to go to the township board for consideration.