JOLIET – Construction work on the Chicago Street reconnection project is not likely to start until 2018, a city official said.
Additionally, one Will County Board member advised the City Council this week to proceed “at your own risk” before paying $150,000 for an engineering consultant to prepare for roadwork on land that is now owned by the county.
But the council took that first step Tuesday and approved the consultant contract to begin preparations for the eventual reconnection of Chicago Street, a project that has been talked about for years as a key to bringing more traffic downtown.
Joliet still is negotiating the acquisition of a county courthouse parking lot needed to connect the south end of Chicago Street that leads to Interstate 80 with the section that runs through the heart of downtown. But city officials want to get moving on engineering, expressing confidence that the land deal will be completed before the engineering is done.
The engineering work “will actually take more than a year before we go to construction,” city manager Jim Hock told the council. “You’re probably looking at the 2018 construction season.”
Hock’s comments followed cautionary words from Will County Board member Mike Fricilone, vice chairman of the board’s Capital Improvements Committee.
“The only thing I want to caution is you don’t own it yet,” Fricilone said. “Even though the engineering will take a year, maybe it will take longer to get everything in place. Move at your own risk.”
Questioned afterward about his comments, Fricilone said negotiations over the courthouse parking lot involve more than price. The city and county are discussing other downtown properties, including the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office building at 121 N. Chicago St.
“There are a lot of properties that may be of interest that are part of the plan,” Fricilone said. “Those will all come into play.”
The reconnection project involves one block of street, but engineering is expected to be lengthy and involve the Illinois Department of Transportation. The project involves rebuilding intersections at Washington Street – a point where Chicago Street also is Route 53 – and Jefferson Street, which is Route 30 at that point.