The new year should be loaded with news.
Much of the groundwork for the stories of 2018 already has been laid.
Train stations under construction in Joliet and Romeoville will open in 2018.
Candidates who handed in petitions to run for public office face primary elections in March and a general election in November.
Decisions will be made to determine whether NorthPoint Development moves forward with its 2,000-plus-acre Compass Business Park planned for Elwood.
Surely, at some point in 2018, we all will learn more about why 17-month-old Sema’j Crosby was found dead underneath a sofa in her home.
Here’s a look at some of the news likely to come in 2018.
The only public development since Sema’j’s body was found in her home in May, aside from rumor and innuendo, was a coroner’s finding in September that she died from suffocation.
Will County Sheriff’s police continue to investigate the case without any hint that they are close to finding an answer to her death.
But interest is high. Organized groups, such as the Justice for Sema’j Action Group are determined to keep the case in the public spotlight.
News about Sema’j will continue in 2018.
Direction of NorthPoint
The public debate over the future of the Compass Business Park continues Jan. 11.
A Dec. 19 meeting of the Elwood Planning and Zoning Commission on an annexation and zoning request for the industrial park drew several hundred people and was continued to Jan. 11.
The project is another milestone in what so far has been an onward march of distribution development that already has made Will County what is called the largest inland port in the nation because of the volume of cargo being shipped into intermodal yards before being carried away by semitrailers.
The NorthPoint Development plant in Elwood, however, could be a turning point.
Residents are increasingly pushing back because of the large number of trucks going onto local highways and roads. People say they are losing a way of life.
Compass Business Park will be one of the biggest stories of the new year.
Houbolt Road bridge
One proposed answer to growing truck congestion in the area is a Houbolt Road bridge that would give trucks direct access to Interstate 80 from the CenterPoint Intermodal Parks in Joliet and Elwood.
The latest estimate is that construction of the bridge could start by late 2018.
If not, it won’t be the first time a proposed construction date on the project has been pushed back.
But the $190 million project, which includes a new interchange at Houbolt and I-80, will be big news whenever it starts. And, if something happens to put the project in doubt, that will be news, too.
Courthouse and skyline
Downtown Joliet will start looking dramatically different in 2018 with construction of the Will County Courthouse.
The courthouse won’t be completed until 2020.
But as the 10-story structure begins to rise over Jefferson Street, people will get an idea of the difference it will make in the future of the skyline of downtown Joliet.
Meanwhile, engineers will continue to work on plans for the future reopening of Chicago Street, which will make the main street of downtown a direct connection to Interstate 80.
Actual construction, including a redesign of a section of Chicago Street to accommodate street parking, may not begin until 2019. But preparations for the project will continue to be news.
One downtown Joliet project that will be completed in 2018 is the new train station.
The station is scheduled to open in January, a long-awaited moment that follows starts and stops on a project that first was announced in 2010.
The Joliet train station is part of a larger project that has included new commuter platforms on the Rock Island and Heritage Corridor Metra lines. A new bus station has been stalled, however, because of cost overruns.
Meanwhile, a new train station in Romeoville also will open in early 2018 at 135th Street and New Avenue. The station on the Heritage Corridor line is a first for Romeoville, and it’s the first new Metra stop in the Chicago region since 2011.
The Joliet Slammers’ season opens in May with artificial turf at the city-owned baseball season for the first time since it was built in 2002.
The turf has yet to be installed, but the stadium grass was torn out in the fall. So, the turf has to go in by May.
Joliet has renamed the stadium Joliet Route 66 Stadium. In 2018, maybe the city will find the money or a sponsor to pay for a sign redubbing the stadium, which still has the name Silver Cross Field over the front gate.
Meanwhile, the turf along with a stadium redesigned to accommodate more sports than baseball will test whether Joliet can attract more events and sports to bring in more revenue at the facility in 2018.
The new year also could test whether there is enough tourist interest in the old Joliet Correctional Center to justify efforts to preserve the prison on Collins Street.
The city signed a five-year lease with the state in November that will allow Joliet to create opportunities for public access to the prison.
Joliet Area Historical Museum Director Greg Peerbolte has been saying for years that outside interest in prison tours is high. He should get a chance to prove it this year.
Romeoville also will get its first new-car dealership when Thomas Toyota opens in 2018.
The dealership is Romeoville’s gain and Joliet’s loss. Thomas Toyota is moving from a Joliet location on Larkin Avenue to a Romeoville spot on Weber Road.
The move had repercussions that extend to 2018, as Joliet considers an incentive package patterned after the Romeoville deal given to Thomas in order to keep Hawk Volkswagen and Mazda dealerships in town.
County and state legislative offices are up for election this year. The primary is in March, and the general election is in November.
Still months away, the hottest race in the election got hotter in December with revelations that Lauren Staley-Ferry, a County Board member seeking election as county clerk, faced a felony forgery charge in Arizona in 2003.
The county clerk’s race already was the biggest in the election, with County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots having decided not to seek re-election. Three candidates are in the race – two Democrats and one Republican.
Future of retail
The future of traditional retailing will continue to be news in 2018.
Here’s hoping no one has to close the store.
But the companies that own all four anchor stores at the Louis Joliet Mall – Sears, JCPenney, Macy’s and Carson’s – all have been closing stores. None have announced closing in Joliet, but other stores closed in 2017.
Meanwhile, Joliet and Cullinan Properties continue on plans to build Rock Run Crossings, a huge lifestyle mall development at Interstates 55 and 80. The project depends on funding to support a new interchange and extensive road improvements. Any developments on the plan in 2018 will be news.
Lockport will make street and streetscape improvements in its downtown.
Work is slated to start in February on a project that will include new left-turn lanes to make traffic flow down State Street more smoothly. The city also plans to add planters, benches and other improvements to make dining and strolling in downtown more satisfying.
New Lenox shopping and dining
Construction begins this year on a New Lenox development at the northwest corner of Route 30 and North Vancina Lane that will include a Cooper’s Hawk restaurant and Pete’s Fresh Market grocery.
Cooper’s Hawk could open before the end of 2018.
New Lenox is spending $5.8 million to make the development possible.