JOLIET – Rock Run Crossings, the lifestyle mall-and-more project planned for a crossroads corner of Interstates 55 and 80, might celebrate some sort of ribbon-cutting ceremony in a few years if everything goes right.
Many things have to go as planned.
“It’s a major, major project. It’s not just building a mall,” Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said.
Rock Run Crossings is advertised as a development that will include stores, restaurants, hotels, offices, homes and even entertainment venues as it becomes a destination place where people will not only want to visit but also where they will want to work and live.
Getting there, however, depends on building a new interchange and expanding existing roads to create access that will make the project possible.
City officials express confidence that the 265-acre development will go forward.
“Between now and the time there will be physical buildings in there, you’re talking about a two- to three-year period,” Joliet economic development director Steve Jones said. “That doesn’t mean everything will be built.”
It also depends on things going well, he said.
A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation said it will “take a few years” just to plan the infrastructure.
“There is currently no funding identified for design, land acquisition or construction,” IDOT spokeswoman Gianna Urgo said in an email.
“IDOT is partnering with the city of Joliet and village of Shorewood to initiate a preliminary engineering and environmental study to evaluate possible improvements,” Urgo said. “The study will include extensive stakeholder outreach, including public meetings and public hearings. It’s expected to take a few years to complete.”
Shorewood is involved, too. The interchange and road expansions extend into Shorewood, putting the village on alert for them to affect future traffic patterns.
“From the beginning, we’ve been kept in the loop on the project,” Shorewood Village Administrator Roger Barrowman said.
Cullinan Properties spokeswoman Anaise Berry did not return calls seeking comment. But Cullinan spotlights Rock Run Crossings on its website.
“This highly visible location
33 miles outside of Chicago is ideally located at the I-80 and I-55 interchange, with an estimated 230,000 vehicles passing daily,” Cullinan said on its website. “The site is ideal for retail, restaurants, entertainment, big box, hospitality and residential.”
Three components of the Rock Run Crossings project stand to be dealt with.
Paying for it
IDOT has estimated the total cost of the interchange and roads at
Joliet plans to create a tax increment financing district that could use property taxes from the development to offset local costs and a special business district that could use a portion of sales tax dollars as well.
Meanwhile, just planning for the project is expensive.
The City Council in June approved a letter of intent to pay $5.4 million of the total $7.5 million in phase one engineering costs for the project. The state would pay the other $2.1 million.
City officials said those numbers are high because they believe Joliet will be able to lower its share of engineering costs.
Jones said that the entire project will ease traffic congestion on Jefferson Street, a road managed by the state. Once that is demonstrated, the city hopes to negotiate a lower share of the engineering costs by showing the benefit the project has for the state.
Jones said Cullinan is committed to contributing $750,000 for phase one engineering.
“Phase one engineering is going to be the critical path that determines a lot of things,” Jones said. “It determines whether the revenues from the development are enough to pay for the infrastructure.”
Joliet can issue bonds to pay for its share of infrastructure costs but would do so with a plan to ensure the bonds are paid off with tax dollars generated by Rock Run Crossings, Jones said.
“All this has to work,” he said. “The city isn’t going to issue bonds if they can’t be paid.”
The key to the project is the interchange.
Rock Run Crossings would be built in the northeast corner of I-55 and I-80. While the corner has plenty of exposure along two interstates that go cross-country, it has no access.
Existing ramps connecting I-55 with Route 59 run to the west side of the interstate at Seil Road.
A new interchange would be created with a bridge taking Seil Road over I-55 to a new road leading into Rock Run Crossing. Seil also would connect with County Farm Road, which now ends on the east side of the interstate.
Additional on and off ramps would connect directly with County Farm Road on the east side of the interchange.
Connecting to Houbolt Road
The plan also creates new connecting routes to Houbolt Road, which provides access from the east for local traffic. It also would be an alternative route for interstate travelers, who could get off I-80 at the Houbolt Road interchange.
County Farm Road now winds through an area that is partly industrial and partly natural habitat. It connects with McDonough Street near the Joliet Regional Airport.
The plan is to build a new road, which basically straightens out County Farm Road and connects it with Houbolt just north of JJC.
Olympic Boulevard, a road on the south end of JJC that runs through the Rock Run Business Park, also would be extended to run directly into Rock Run Crossings. Olympic would be continued over I-55 and connect with Mound Road in Shorewood.