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Local News

Joliet council to vote on train station bid – 'finally'

JOLIET – Joliet again has the go-ahead to build a new train station.

The City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on a $16 million contract with Walsh Construction to build the station and a new platform for the Heritage Corridor train.

The price has gone up $400,000 since the state put the brakes on the project in the summer.

Walsh was the low bidder at $15.6 million when bids were opened in June. There were only two bids, and the other bid was $16.8 million.

City Manager Jim Hock used the word “finally” when he told the council at a workshop meeting Monday that the project is ready to move forward.

“We do have verbal approval from [Illinois Department of Transportation] that they will approve this,” Hock said. “The state is in favor of going ahead even though there is a $400,000 increase in costs.”

The project was put on hold when IDOT raised concerns that not enough money was left to pay for both the train station and a Pace bus station. The price for the entire transportation center has gone from an original budget of $42 million to $50 million. The state has final say-so on bids because it has $30 million in the project, which has also included a realignment of train tracks downtown.

City officials spent a half-year convincing state officials to allow Joliet to build the train station now and the bus station later when it finds more funding.

In the meantime, Walsh Construction has lost a couple of subcontractors and the price of steel has gone up, increasing the price. That delayed the bid award for another month.

The price increase could have been worse, Lisa Dorothy, project manager for Joliet, told the City Council Public Service Committee, which reviewed the bid Monday before the full council meeting.

Bringing new subcontractors onto the job was going to cost an additional $1.3 million, Dorothy said. But Walsh negotiated them down.

Dorothy suggested moving ahead with the Walsh bid.

“Our only option would be to go out for bids again, and we’d run the risk of the bids being significantly higher,” she said.

Walsh already has told city officials that it would not bid again, since its bid is already known, Dorothy said.

Councilman Jim McFarland, who chairs the Public Service Committee, said he thinks “the city was sold a bag of goods” when it got the initial estimates on the project’s cost. Still, he added, there was no turning back.

The old train station, Union Station, was shut down in September 2014 when Metra commuter platforms were moved to the others side of the tracks where the new train station will be built.

“There’s no way we could stop this mid-project,” McFarland said.

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