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Joliet hopes opening Chicago Street will revitalize downtown

City officials are moving forward with plans to better align streets in downtown Joliet – and help transform the area into a “mecca for young adults” – by reopening Chicago Street to through traffic.

The Joliet City Council unanimously approved two measures last week allowing the city to award a professional engineering services contract and appropriate funding for the construction project.

In February, the city adopted a downtown development plan prepared by planning and consulting firm Camiros, where they outlined the various priorities to be undertaken in coming years. Part of project requires officials to reconnect a portion of Chicago Street, which has been closed off to traffic between Jefferson and Washington Streets.

Chicago Street will require roadwork at two intersections controlled by the Illinois Department of Transportation. All traffic moving eastbound on U.S. Route 30, or Jefferson Street, and northbound on Route 53, or Washington Street, are expected to incur the affect of the effort. IDOT is expected to review and decide whether to approve the city’s plans.

The closure of the roadway dates back to the ‘80s, when a land swap took place between Joliet and Will County to provide additional parking for the county courthouse.

Officials in Joliet and those for Will County are in the middle of negotiations regarding the transferring of rights to the road.

Joliet is allotting $149,908.53 through the city’s local share of motor fuel tax funds, in order to cover expenses for Phase I engineering services.

Mike Fricilone, a member of the Will County Board, supports the city’s intent to re-open Chicago Street, but add that he has some concerns.

“The only thing I want to caution is ‘you don’t own [the road] yet,’” he told the city council at its April 19 meeting. “We continue to talk—I think we will continue to talk—but as you know sometimes those things can drag out a little bit. Even though the engineering will only take a year, maybe it will take us longer to get everything in place.”

In response to a concern raised by councilman Jim McFarland regarding whether it’s premature to allocate funds toward the engineering components to the project, City Manager Jim Hock sought to less the worry.

“Not all,” he said. “You’re probably looking at the 2018 construction season.”

Fricilone said the county remains committed to working with the city and coming to an agreement.

“I think everybody on the county board is excited about the revitalization plans for downtown Joliet because obviously [that’s] why we decided to keep the courthouse down here.”

Jim Trizna, director of public works, said it’s important to give those traveling in and around downtown Joliet greater access to the city.

“The whole intent here is to allow local folks, people who want to come to downtown, to not have to loop around and come work their way back down onto Chicago Street,” he said. “They’ll drive straight onto Chicago Street.”

Trizna said reopening Chicago Street is hoped to provide not only greater ease for residents and commuters, but also encourage businesses to work there in the future.

Joliet City Council reaches collective bargaining agreement with firefighters union

The Joliet City Council reached a contract agreement with Joliet firefighters union Local 44 that extends through 2019.

The contract included an extension of the current healthcare plan, a guarantee of no layoffs and a provision to reinstate residency for future new hires. Officials first entered negotiations regarding the agreement in February and since that time, the city and the firefighters union have reviewed and updated the remainder of the contract.

Revisions for the final contract included dates, salary tables and the incorporation of language adjustments negotiated in the master agreement.

Contract awarded for Briggs Street water main improvement

Joliet is moving forward with plans to award a contract, valued at $92,826.47, for water main improvements along Briggs Street.

After starting reconstruction along Briggs Street, officials located data indicating a need for water main adjustments and at that time, they understood change was necessary to allow for adequate vertical clearance between the existing structure and a proposed stormwater box culvert.

The city received three proposals for the underground construction project, agreeing upon terms laid out by Austin – Tyler Construction. The contract will be paid from Joliet’s water and sewer improvement fund.

Payment amended, approved for Caton Farm Road bridge improvement

Also that meeting, city officials approved an amendment order and payment request for phase II engineering services of the Caton Farm Road bridge over DuPage River improvement project.

In July 2014, Joliet awarded $172,288.24 toward an engineering services contract to Willett, Hofmann & Associates. A change in payment amount is needed after reviewing the number of hours sub consultants worked, city staff said.

A reduction in the amount owed allows the city to rake in a cost savings, valued at $16,690.68, in motor fuel tax funds. The vote also allowed the city to process a request payment of $1,611.32.

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