Joliet officials weigh in on Will County Freight Mobility Plan
The Joliet City Council had a chance last week to take a close look at the Will County Freight Mobility Plan, a project designed to enhance quality of life, address environmental issues and promote economic vitality all while reducing the need for freight traffic.
Joliet, like other communities in Will County, is impacted by concerns highlighted in this study.
A number of partners in the area played a part in propelling this project forward.
History shows that a need for the Will County Freight Mobility Plan has been in the making for about 15 years.
“We came to the conclusion that understanding the freight industry in Will County was the first thing we needed to do,” said John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development. “The growth in the [logistics] industry has been astounding, but we didn’t understand it.”
The findings of the study, as presented, show that more than three million containers coming and leaving the area intermodal yards carry over $65 billion of products that are managed in Will County.
“We have become this largest inland container for North America,” Greuling said.
Since 2005, logistics job growth in Will County has grown by 138 percent, compared to 10 percent in the Chicago region and 9 percent in Kansas City.
Greuling wanted it to be clear that planning and new transportation investments are critical moving forward.
Future projects highlighted in the plan referenced a need for improvements to Interstate 80, lane additions to Interstate 55 south of Interstate 80, reconstruction of the interchange near Interstate 80 and Interstate 55, and work completed on the interchange joining Interstate 55 and Weber Road.
“We need help from the state and the region and the federal government to make this happen,” Greuling said.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman questioned how Grueling and others were received during a recent trip in which the Will County Freight Mobility Plan was presented to members of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Greuling said Congressional leaders shared much of the same sentiments as those in Will County.
When asked by Quillman what type of impact they could have nationally if Will County shut down its movement of freight traffic, Greuling said the result would be significant.
Quillman questioned how Congressional leaders reacted to the idea of Will County trying to seek the Federal Highway Administration’s involvement.
Greuling said it is still up in the air how the county should proceed funding-wise.
“We’re encouraging them to consider putting more [money] in [for freight projects,] so that we could go after that,” Greuling said. “Because we’re just not [seeking] your usual road improvement, we’re carrying a lot of weight, here, so to speak.”
For more information on the freight mobility plan, visit www.willcountyfreight.org.
Rialto gets $250,000
Also during the meeting, the Joliet City Council authorized the execution of an agreement with the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, approving the issuance of one payment valued at $250,000.
The City of Joliet will extend another installment of $250,000 to the Rialto in July, so long as a set of conditions is met.
The pact stipulates that the Rialto must have hosted or booked at least 30 performances, excluding those targeted toward grade-school children, between Jan. 1 and June 30 to receive its second payment. Other conditions require the Rialto to pay its payroll taxes, make timely payment of its 2017 audit, refrain from requesting additional City funds, submit quarterly updates to securing a dedicated funding source, and present a draft capital plan.
In a 7-1 vote, officials decided to authorize the agreement to provide the Rialto with funding.
Prison Committee formed
Officials moved to amend a set of resolutions and reaffirm the existence of the City of Joliet’s committees.
Council action was predicated, in part, because of the lack of meetings held for the Housing Authority Liaison Committee thereby giving rise to it being dissolved.
“As we know, they’ve done a great,” Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said. “They’ve pulled out of that status for doing outstanding work.”
History shows the committee in question was formed at a time when the Joliet Housing Authority was listed as a troubled agency.
“I’m asking if we can disband that committee and instead take those committee members and make a Prison Committee,” O’Dekirk said. “As you know, we have recently voted to acquire the prison through a lease.”
O’Dekirk wants direct City Council involvement, especially considering all of the new activity occurring on the prison grounds.
Members of the Prison Committee are Bettye Gavin, Terry Morris and Don “Duck” Dickinson.
Moving forward, a liaison will remain assigned to the Joliet Housing Authority.
Land swap approved
Will County and the City of Joliet have agreed to a land swap needed to support the new courthouse, the opening of Chicago Street and other related matters.
The pact, as unanimously approved, is meant to facilitate responsibilities between the two governing bodies, express interests in promoting mutual interests and working cooperatively.
History shows that council action was long in the making for the two projects.
The agreement strengthens the City’s desire for downtown Joliet to serve as a vibrant commercial, governmental, transportation, cultural, recreational and residential center.
O’Dekirk wanted to thank all parties involved in the creation of the pact.
“This is a big agreement for Joliet, for downtown,” he said. “Thank you for coming to the table and working this out.”