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Local News

Joliet attorney presents Houbolt Road bridge deal to council

This 3D printed model of a future Houbolt Road bridge over the Des Plaines River was used during an open house on the project held in August 2018 at Joliet Junior College.
This 3D printed model of a future Houbolt Road bridge over the Des Plaines River was used during an open house on the project held in August 2018 at Joliet Junior College.

A future Houbolt Road toll bridge over the Des Plaines River could be open in less than three years if the City Council agrees Tuesday to take ownership.

That was the forecast from Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis on Monday as he provided the council details on an agreement that makes the city owners for a bridge that will cost anywhere from $150 million to $180 million to build without costing Joliet a cent.

"We're looking at around two and a half years until the operations date commences," Regis said.

It's been four years since then-Gov. Bruce Rauner Joined Mayor Bob O'Dekirk for a press conference announcing the public-private partnership to build a bridge designed to give semitrailers a more direct route from the CenterPoint Intermodal Center to Interstate 80.

"This probably should have been done two years ago but for the Burlington Northern lawsuit that stalled it," O'Dekirk said Monday.

A BNSF Railway lawsuit over the bridge crossing a railroad easement led to a settlement with a judge's instruction that the bridge, originally intended to be privately held, should be publicly owned.

Thus, a private joint venture created where CenterPoint will build, operate and maintain the bridge, according to terms in a lease that will give Joliet ownership.

O'Dekirk said it's still "a good deal."

"The idea that we're getting anything that we're not putting money into is a good deal," the mayor said.

Joliet stands to collect 1% of toll revenue and $100,000 in annual administration fees as owners of the bridge.

Council members did ask questions concerning maintenance costs, tolls, naming rights, and the potential for default.

Regis said the city can get out of the agreement if Houbolt Road Extension JV fails to build the bridge.

Houbolt Road Extension JV will deposit $6 million into a maintenance fund and add $120,000 annually, Regis said.

"It was not our original intention to own the bridge," Regis said. But the agreement, he added, "still gives us much needed relief and improvement to the local infrastructure in a way we can all live with."

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