CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Transportation has filed a motion with the Illinois Commerce Commission to terminate an ongoing case over safety at the Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing in Elwood and permanently close the controversial crossing.
The ICC ruled in January 2014 to shut down the railroad crossing – previously a major access point for truckers to the nearby CenterPoint Properties intermodals – amid safety concerns.
In a motion filed this week by IDOT attorney Doug Felder, the state agency noted issues related to safety at the crossing have been resolved by the closure. No one has advocated during IDOT's quarterly meetings for the crossing to reopen, according to the motion.
"Although the closure of the crossing has not eliminated traffic issues in the general area, these traffic issues do not involve railroad crossings within the [ICC's] jurisdiction," the motion states.
There is no need to continue the proceedings, according to the motion, because the ICC – which governs the state's railway system – does not have jurisdiction over regional highway matters.
The closure order called for IDOT to complete two engineering and environmental studies, one that looks at a grade separation in the vicinity of the crossing and another covering traffic options on Route 53 from Route 52 south to West Arsenal Road. The first study will be submitted to IDOT by the end of February, the motion states.
In a statement from the village of Elwood, Police Chief Fred Hayes said the village supports permanently closing the crossing to prevent future tragedies.
He added Elwood officials would rather the ICC administrative law judge continue overseeing IDOT's progress in addressing regional truck traffic.
"However, to ensure that IDOT remains committed to protecting the safety of Will County residents and those family members and friends participating in funeral processions en route to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, Elwood would prefer that [the ICC administrative law judge] continue to hold the agency responsible for the truck traffic safety situation along Route 53," Hayes said.
IDOT's second study is not subject to ICC's direction.
In an emailed statement provided by Michael Murphy, chief development officer for CenterPoint Properties, Murphy declined to say whether the real estate developer agrees with IDOT's motion, citing pending litigation.
Murphy said in the email CenterPoint "has been consistent in calling for a regionally sensible and safe long-term traffic solution to deal with truck traffic" and that "this goes beyond the existing closure of Walter Strawn Drive."
Safety has always been the highest priority in the development of the intermodals and CenterPoint remains committed to being a good corporate neighbor, Murphy said in the email.