Mayor Bob O'Dekirk sent a letter to the governor in June urging support of the central feature of the business park NorthPoint Development wants to build.
The letter was sent at a time when Joliet's official position was a hands-off approach to the controversial Compass Business Park that had been rejected in Elwood and was facing opposition from county officials.
Now, NorthPoint wants Joliet to annex 1,260 acres and provide the zoning it needs to build the industrial park. The developer got an 8-0 vote of support this week from the Joliet Plan Commission.
O'Dekirk and interim City Manager Steve Jones, who wrote the letter signed by the mayor and sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said it was sent to support the bridge NorthPoint wants to build but not as a signal of support for the Compass Business Park.
"Our motivation was to get traffic off of (Route) 53," Jones said Wednesday. "This was a regional transportation initiative."
Jones said the letter was requested by NorthPoint, and he wrote the letter that the mayor signed.
NorthPoint has proposed a private bridge crossing Route 53, a state highway, into Elwood. The bridge would provide a direct connection between the future Compass Business Park to the intermodal yards in Elwood and Joliet.
The proposed bridge is the subject of litigation between Elwood and NorthPoint.
The bridge would be built by NorthPoint to serve its business park and is the key feature of the "closed-loop" system that the developer contends would take truck traffic off of local roads if Joliet approves its plans.
The mayor's letter does not refer to the Compass Business Park but to NorthPoint's plan "to construct a privately funded bridge over Illinois Route 53. This infrastructure project is an outstanding plan to mitigate future truck traffic congestion within the region."
O'Dekirk, who has not taken a public position on the Compass Business Park, said at the time he signed the letter NorthPoint had a proposal pending with Will County and the bridge appeared to be a way of controlling truck congestion.
"NorthPoint had applied with the county and part of the concept was to keep trucks off of Route 53, which tied into my idea of the Houbolt Road bridge to keep trucks off of local roads," O'Dekirk said. "It made perfect sense to us."
Joliet is part of a plan to build a Houbolt Road bridge to give trucks access to Interstate 80 from the intermodal yards.
The mayor's letter also was sent at a time that Joliet and Elwood had a boundary agreement in place that barred Joliet from considering annexation of the land that NorthPoint now wants to bring into the city.
The agreement expired at the end of 2019 and Joliet refused a request from Elwood to extend it. NorthPoint in January filed its application to annex land that previously had been covered by the boundary agreement into Joliet.
Jones said the bridge issue was unrelated to the boundary agreement and that it is not unusual for Joliet to take positions on regional transportation issues that extend beyond the city.
"If you read the agreement, it doesn't say anything about us commenting on traffic matters," he said.
Joliet wanted to comment on the bridge at the time because it was still a possibility that Compass Business Park could be built without NorthPoint ever bringing the project to Joliet, Jones said.
"At the time," he said, "they (NorthPoint) were talking to the county, and Elwood at some point could have said we'll reconsider the project. We were just talking about the bridge."