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Local News

Controversial Elwood railroad crossing to be shut down, ICC rules

Length of closure yet to be determined

A semitrailer waits for a train to pass as it turns onto Walter Strawn Drive off of Route 53 in Elwood  Friday, Aug. 15, 2014.
A semitrailer waits for a train to pass as it turns onto Walter Strawn Drive off of Route 53 in Elwood Friday, Aug. 15, 2014.

CHICAGO – A controversial railroad crossing in Elwood will temporarily shut down amid safety concerns while a long-term solution can be found, the Illinois Commerce Commission ruled Wednesday morning.

The full ICC board's decision came without any public comment or debate.

The decision comes despite opposition from CenterPoint Properties, the developer of two nearby trucking intermodals. Its attorney has argued the move limits Route 53 access into the Elwood and Joliet intermodals and jeopardizes safety along other highways and local roads by unnecessarily diverting thousands of trucks elsewhere in the region.

The Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing has been a point of contention all year, pitting Elwood village officials against CenterPoint Properties, the developer of two nearby trucking intermodals, in a series of hearings on how to best address safety concerns there.

The ICC — which governs the state's railway system — handed down the decision during its regular meeting on Wednesday at the Michael A. Bilandic building, 160 N. Lasalle St. in Chicago.

A 2001 case brought forward by the Village of Elwood was reopened in late 2013, with the village citing safety concerns. Crossing gates were broken nearly 50 times last year, and Elwood village officials have tried for some time to steer semitrailer traffic away from the area.

An Illinois Commerce Commission administrative law judge recommended the crossing's closing last month, calling the situation there an "immediate safety concern."

Part of the problem at the crossing stems from the increase in truck traffic volume, which has significantly exceeded initial projections from when the crossing project was first discussed in 2001.

Traffic has increased from an estimated 7,000 vehicles a day in 2003, with 26 percent being trucks, to 12,000 vehicles in 2013, with 67 percent being semitrailers, according to an Elwood study.

Several parties have said they believe the situation at Walter Strawn Drive is pressing because of its unique nature, with the dozens of funeral processions taking Route 53 to the nearby national cemetery.

The crossing will close within two weeks, according to an ICC administrative law judge's recommendation.

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