JOLIET – The opening of Chicago Street will give people a straight drive downtown from Interstate 80, but not a straight drive out.
Public Works Director James Trizna on Monday gave the City Council a presentation on the Chicago Street project, which is slated to begin and finish in 2019.
“We want to do it in one season,” Trizna told the council.
Planners for years have been calling for the opening of Chicago Street, which now is interrupted by a parking lot at the Will County Courthouse, as a way to bring more traffic downtown from I-80.
Motorists headed out of downtown, however, will continue to be directed away from Chicago Street to Ottawa Street to get to Interstate 80.
It’s only a one-block detour, Trizna pointed out. But council members thought it worth noting that it’s the state, not the city, that is keeping Chicago Street one-way north as it reaches the downtown area.
“That’s because that’s not a decision we can make,” Council member Larry Hug said. “That’s for the state to say whether they want it one-way or two-way.”
Chicago Street also is Route 53, a state route. It becomes a one-way street going north two blocks from Washington Street. Now, motorists headed downtown are diverted when they reach Washington to Scott Street, also Route 53, as they come downtown. In 2019, they will be able to continue north on Chicago Street into the heart of downtown.
Heading south, however, they will turn right on Washington to pick up Ottawa Street, a one-way street that takes them to Chicago Street and back to I-80.
Council member Jan Quillman compared Chicago Street with Jefferson and Cass streets, other roads that double as state routes and go one-way through downtown.
“Our hands are tied,” Quillman said. “There’s nothing we can do about that.”
Other features of the project presented by Trizna include:
• black lampposts used for decorative lighting on Chicago Street downtown to create “a different look” from the “highway green” used on other lampposts downtown;
• reconstruction of the parking lot immediately east of the courthouse, which will become a 200-space lot for courthouse parking during the day but free parking for the public after 5 p.m. and on weekends.
CHICAGO STREET PUBLIC FORUM
When: 6-9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Joliet Area Historical Museum, 204 N. Ottawa St.
What: Details presented on Chicago Street Corridor Plan
Who: Presentation by consultant Gingko Planning & Design