JOLIET – Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Monday a public-private partnership to build a bridge over the Des Plaines River at Houbolt Road in Joliet to facilitate traffic in and out of the CenterPoint Intermodal Center.
Local officials for years have urged construction of the bridge, which has become a more urgent need as more companies, including Amazon.com and Mars candy, have set up operations on the south end of Joliet.
An estimated 11,000 vehicles per day are expected to use the bridge initially, including more than 6,600 trucks, according to the state. The agreement is the result of the teamwork between the Illinois Department of Transportation, CenterPoint, the City of Joliet and Will County, according to a news release from the state.
“The project is long overdue and will only enhance the region’s position as a freight hub for North America and an economic engine for the state,” Rauner said in the news release. “Illinois needs more projects just like these creative solutions to fund infrastructure and keep Illinois competitive far into the 21st century.”
Construction could start in 2017, with the bridge opening in late 2018 or early 2019, according to the state.
CenterPoint will build and operate a toll bridge on Houbolt Road over the river and the BNSF Railroad tracks, according to the news release, at a cost of $150 million to $170 million. The Will County Board will need to pass a resolution allowing tolls to be issued and collected by CenterPoint.
The state will provide $21 million to widen Houbolt Road and reconfigure the existing interchange with I-80 to a diverging-diamond design to accommodate the increased traffic demand, according to the state. The City of Joliet will work with IDOT to implement and oversee the improvements.
The completed project will provide two lanes of traffic in each direction between I-80 and CenterPoint’s intermodal facilities and will "relieve congestion on roads not built for heavy truck traffic, answer the safety concerns expressed by local communities and make the intermodal facilities more efficient," the state noted in the news release.
City officials have fielded increasing complaints about growing truck congestion on Route 53, which also connects with I-80. The bridge has been seen as a way to ease that problem.
Rauner formally announced the project about noon at CenterPoint Intermodal Center. He was accompanied by state transportation Secretary Randall Blankenhorn and local officials.
Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk has said for months that an announcement on the future bridge could be expected this year. In November, O'Dekirk said that the Illinois Department of Transportation wanted to start construction of the bridge by 2017 and have it in use by 2018.