After years of discussions, the Lockport City Council finally chose the route it wants to see incorporated into Will County’s long-planned $600 million Caton Farm-Bruce Road corridor project, which includes a much-needed new bridge over the Des Plaines River.
The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved Gougar Road as the north-south portion for the 12-mile route that generally extends from Caton Farm Road in Joliet east, along Bruce Road, to past Interstate 355.
Alderwoman Catherine Perretta, who lives in the Thunderhill subdivision off Gougar Road and had previously expressed concerns about choosing that route, was not at the meeting. Alderman JR Gillogly also was absent.
The city needs approval from Will County before Gougar can officially replace the proposed new highway, called “the middle alignment,” that was approved as part of the project in 2009.
Upon that approval, Lockport will commission an environmental study estimated to cost about $347,000.
The county held an open house two weeks ago at Lockport Township High School’s east campus for residents to view all possible options and weigh in on the issue.
Mayor Steven Streit reminded the council that Lockport had never committed to the idea of a new highway that would run through land that could be developed otherwise. The city also can look to secure state and federal funding to widen Gougar Road, which was his primary concern.
“Forty years from now, there will not be anyone saying, ‘Why didn’t these knuckleheads improve this road?’ ” Streit said. “This is us finally making a decision.”
Alderman Darren Deskin said he was “really happy” the council was on the path to “correct a huge mistake made by the county,” which he had been working on “for 10 years.”
The county still is in the first of three phases for the project, which could take decades. The change would add a little time before it can get to Phase 2, said Christina Kupkowski of the Will County Division of Transportation. Currently, it does not even have the funding for much of the project, including the new bridge, which is estimated to cost about $150 million, she said.
Streit said many of the concerns may be moot by the time the project is completed. After the vote, he quipped, “So, maybe in 50 years we’ll see a bridge.”
Separately, Streit vetoed a portion of an ordinance approved by the council at its March 20 meeting, which would require all new commercial structures to install a sprinkler system.
The council previously had discussed this issue and decided to stick with the city’s current requirement of the fire safety feature for buildings 5,000 square feet or larger.
However, at the March 20 meeting, most of the council decided to amend the required footage to zero, which was then approved. Streit and Deskin had been vocal against the amendment. The council Wednesday decided to uphold Streit’s veto and bring the issue back for further discussion at its next meeting. Two members of the public spoke Wednesday night, representing both sides.
William Hincks of the Sprinkler Fitters Local Union 201 thanked the council members who had voted on the new amendment, “[putting] safety and the community first.”
“What is at the heart of the work [we do] is saving lives and saving property,” Hincks said.
Gideon Blustein of the Three Rivers Association of Realtors urged for “a common-sense approach,” adding the cost to sprinkle smaller locations “makes it nontenable for anyone to go in and occupy them.”