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Local News

County board approves long-awaited freight plan

Officials will use findings to apply for grant funds

The Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan found that about 63 percent of freight is just passing through Will County, and much of it is headed toward other counties in the Chicago region.
The Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan found that about 63 percent of freight is just passing through Will County, and much of it is headed toward other counties in the Chicago region.

JOLIET – The much-anticipated Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan is finally official.

The Will County Board approved it Thursday with a near-unanimous vote, and there were some key findings.

Among them, is that about 63 percent of freight that’s in the county is moving through it, making the area a critical distribution intersection.

The freight may be more important to the economy than previously realized.

“The value of the freight moving through Will County equates to 97 percent of Gross Regional Product, 80 percent of the state’s Gross State Product and 3.5 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product,” the study states.

Another finding is that the freight industry supports 65 percent of the county’s economy, and has made the county the largest inland port in America.

Consulting firm CDM Smith’s Jackie Murdock, who was assistant project manager for the study, said freight is critical to economic success locally, regionally and federally.

The report also identified key freight “superclusters” throughout the county and 25 critical infrastructure projects to help alleviate them.

Among the top projects on the to-do list are widening and improvements to Interstate 80 from Ridge Road to Route 30; improving the Interstate 55-Weber Road interchange; and the Interstate 355-Lorenzo Road interchange. Only the second of those three is planned and will begin in 2018.

The plan also includes forecasts for the future. Freight volumes in Will County may reach nearly 600 million tons at a value of $1.2 trillion by 2040, while traffic on some state and U.S. highways are projected to triple by 2040.

The county now has to implement the plan.

Officials are traveling to Washington early next week for a Congressional hearing on freight and will make ongoing efforts to secure federal funding in the coming months.

They will apply for funding through the Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant program, which was announced by the Trump Administration in June.

“The INFRA program will make approximately $1.5 billion available to projects that are in line with the Administration’s principles to help rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure,” according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Applications for the program are due Nov. 2, according to the study.

The county will also apply for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, which have $500 million available. Those applications are due Oct. 16.

You can learn more about the freight plan at WillCountyFreight.com.

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