• Megann Horstead

City plans to award contract for train station platform later this month


Officials are hoping to move forward with plans to turn Joliet into a transportation hub for the city and neighboring municipalities.

At the Joliet City Council’s Jan. 19 meeting, officials gave an update on the Joliet Multi-Modal Transportation Center project, leading off with details regarding a new development.

“We have a tentative approval from IDOT to begin the process of moving forward with the award on the train station platform bid,” Mayor Bob O’DeKirk announced. “We anticipate the final approval will be coming at the end of the month.”

Joliet’s plan to award a contract bid to Walsh Construction was stalled because of a freeze on state funding and the Illinois state budget impasse, which has shaken up Springfield since August 2015.

“It was a real collaboration and team effort,” Deputy City Manager Steve Jones said. “We engaged the services of the other transit agencies, as well, to make sure that they communicated to IDOT that the best way moving forward was to do the station and the platform now and when funding was then available, to proceed with the Pace bus facility.”

Jones said the Illinois Department of Transportation eventually came on board with the city’s plan after seeing how no other transit agencies contested the idea.

Councilman Jim McFarland pointed out an area of concern regarding the bid and its award, seeing as how the project was delayed and questioned whether the city would need to rebid.

Jones dismissed the concern, saying the city and state recognize that Walsh Construction will hold the bid.

“My understanding is that bid received will basically be what is presented to the council for an award, so there won’t have to be a rebid,” he said. “In fact, it’s a little dangerous because it was about a million dollars spread between the low bid Walsh and the higher bid Burns. So, obviously if both parties know what those bid amounts are, there is certainly less incentive to hold that, but it’s a guaranteed project at this point if Walsh’s bid is accepted.”

Should the city receive state funding to award the bid within the next month, the train station platform is expected to be in usable shape by late fall or early winter 2017.

With regard to the train station, its opening would be set for April or May 2017.

“By the time these two projects are done, there will be about a $3.4 million dollar gap between what the state has remaining in the grant and what it will take to do the Pace facility,” Jones said. “I’ve already been in touch Senator Durbin’s office and Senator Kirk’s office, talking about the new transportation bill that was approved recently. The rules are still being written but within the next 2-3 months, we should know what’s the criterion, what’s the eligibility for those funds.”

Jones said the city knows there is a portion of that bill that is specifically set aside for bus and bus facilities and added that the city hopes to engage legislators, with the intent to obtain federal funding for the Joliet Multi-Modal Transportation Center project.

City Council OKs plans for Will County Courthouse

Officials in Joliet unanimously voted on Monday to allow the city to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Will County, giving them the go ahead to proceed with plans to construct a new facility for new county courthouse and judicial complex.

The county has purchased First Midwest Bank, at 50 W. Jefferson St. in Joliet, and approved plans for demolition and construction of a new main criminal and civil courthouse.

The vote waives all permit and disconnect fees and costs conveyable to or controlled by Joliet.

Should the construction begin in early 2017, the city would pay $10 million spread out in $500,000 increments over the next 20 years.

I-55 noise wall

The Joliet City Council also motioned to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation that allows the city to acquire a sum of money for the study and design of a sound wall along Interstate 55.

A prior noise study conducted by IDOT concluded that a noise wall is needed to mitigate traffic noise on the east side of I-55, from Route 59 to Black Road. However, the project was stalled because Joliet and the village of Shorewood hadn’t come to an agreement.

As part of the agreement, IDOT will provide the city with $180,000 to fund engineering and design services for the project.

Once built, the new wall is expected to extend from the Wooded Creek entrance between Frontage Road and I-55.

The city said the public service committee will review the proposal at a later date.

U.S. Census Bureau to conduct special study

The City Council voted 7-1 allowing Joliet to form an agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct a special census for selected areas. Councilman Larry Hug was the lone “no” vote.

The agreement allows the city to conduct a special study in order to determine the number of new residents living in selected areas since the last census was conducted in 2010. The purpose of the study, according to the city, would be to increase Joliet’s per capita state revenues.

Research conducted by the city indicated that 566 occupancy permits were issued for new residential housing units.

Because 456 of these units are clustered within seven census tracts, the city determined that it could conduct a cost-effective partial census.

Joliet allocated $99,705 to conduct the census, according to city documents. Officials estimated that the new household count would result in $223,257.60 of additional annual revenues.

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