JOLIET – The future downtown train station is in jeopardy again with the state cutting off funds needed to finish the project.
Joliet could be on the hook for $660,000 the state is no longer willing to pay because of its budget problems, Deputy City Manager Steve Jones told the Joliet City Council on Tuesday.
The latest development marks the second time in less than a year that state actions have stymied the project, which was initially made possible by a $30 million state grant.
This time the state has notified the city that it no longer is able to pay the construction management contractor overseeing the project “because of the state’s budget issues,” Jones told the council.
The estimate is that the construction manager will be due $660,000 through the completion of the project, Jones said.
“This doesn’t surprise me,” Councilman Jim McFarland said, noting the project has faced a number of issues “and there’s always a price tag attached.”
But the city is facing another problem as the project hits more snags, he said.
“We have no train station,” McFarland said. “I don’t know how much longer we can delay this project.”
The city closed Union Station in September 2014 as it moved boarding platforms in anticipation of the future train station being built on the other side of the railroad tracks. Commuters since have used outdoor shelters and temporary ticket facilities. Some, McFarland said, are leaving Joliet to pick up the train at other towns.
Jones said the city appears to have three options:
• convince state officials that they should continue to pay the construction manager;
• pay the construction manager with city funds;
• or work out an intergovernmental agreement with the state in which Joliet will pay now and be reimbursed later when the state has a budget in place.
The last option would be contingent on the state’s willingness to enter an intergovernmental agreement.
Jones said he believes the state will have an answer by the next City Council meeting on May 2.
The City Council on March 1 approved a $16 million contract with Walsh Construction to build the train station.
The state delayed the award of the contract for several months because not enough money was left in the project funds to build a Pace bus station that was in the original plan. Eventually, Joliet persuaded state officials to allow the train station to be built now and the bus station to be built later when funds might become available.
Also on Tuesday, the council approved a $150,000 consultant contract with TranSystems for engineering work in preparation for the eventual reconnection of the south end of Chicago Street with the stretch that runs through downtown.