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News

Joliet approves preliminary agreement on Houbolt bridge

JOLIET – The Joliet City Council on Tuesday approved a preliminary agreement on the Houbolt Road bridge project with officials saying the city appeared to be protected from cost overruns.

The memorandum of understanding puts the cost of building the bridge, estimated at between $155 million and $175 million, on CenterPoint Properties. The state would pay up to $21 million for a new interchange at Interstate 80 and widening of Houbolt Road.

But Joliet would be responsible for overruns on the Houbolt Road widening and interchange if the costs exceeded $21 million.

City Manager Jim Hock said the state already had a consulting engineer analyze the project and estimated costs at about $18.8 million, leaving a cushion for potential contingency costs.

Hocks said “there’s been a lot of thought and detail put into this process by the state to come up with that $21 million.”

The council voted, 7-0, for the memorandum of understanding despite questions raised at the Monday workshop meeting, which included requests by the Union Pacific railroad and Mid-West Truckers Association to slow down the process so they could get involved.

Councilman John Gerl said the state’s estimate has “a pretty heavy contingency. We should feel pretty confident.”

Hock provided council members with a copy of cost estimates provided by the state. Those estimates were not available at the Monday workshop meeting when concerns were first expressed about the potential city share of overrun costs.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk called the memorandum of understanding “a great deal for the city.”

O’Dekirk noted that the project, barring any overruns, does not contain any costs for Joliet, while the city wants the bridge and interchange to relieve truck congestion on local roads.

“The state of Illinois has come forward. They basically have answered our call,” O’Dekirk said. “I think it would be a mistake for us to hold things up tonight with all due respect to Union Pacific.”

Representatives from Union Pacific, which runs the intermodal yard at CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet, were at both the Monday and Tuesday meetings.

They, along with the Mid-West Truckers Association, expressed concern about language in the agreement that gives CenterPoint the ability to take over roads in the future if the county or city no longer want to manage them. They raised the prospect of CenterPoint taking over roads and charging tolls to trucks trying to get to and from the intermodal yard.

“Union Pacific is supportive of the Houbolt bridge project,” said Liisa Lawson Stark, assistant vice president for public affairs at Union Pacific. “The language does go beyond a simple agreement for the Houbolt Road bridge.”

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