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  • Megann Horstead

New coalition in the works for I-80 improvements


A new coalition hopes to help lessen concerns for Interstate 80, from Minooka to New Lenox, with its grassroots organizational efforts.

John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development and a leader of the new coalition, will discuss July 30 the purpose and need of the transportation project and near term and long term solutions.

“The Will County Center for Economic Development has been a leader in making sure funding is obtained [for I-80 improvements,]” Greuling said. “It’s a big issue especially because of the intermodal yards in Joliet and Elwood.”

The Will County Center for Economic Development over the years has demonstrated involvement in transportation projects. It created the Southern Alliance for Extension, a coalition to help advance efforts to construct Interstate 355.

“As an organization, we work to make sure transportation is in a state of good repair, but also meeting the needs of residents, businesses and freight traffic moving through Will County,” Greuling said.

The new coalition is a grassroots organization made up of major businesses, trade unions, contractors and government.

“All municipalities have pretty much signed on,” Greuling said. “It’s exciting to see that commitment.”

About five years ago, a freight advisory group was created to support communities, such as Joliet, Elwood and Channahon. Out of that formed the Will County ‘Community Friendly’ Freight Mobility Plan, an initiative adopted about a year ago to pinpoint important projects to support the economic viability of the region. What’s more is it made reference to Interstate 80 as a project to pursue.

“[Will County] shoulders the burden of east and west movement,” Greuling said. “I-80 was built for a rural environment. A lot of growth has occurred. It makes sense to determine how we can get I-80 rebuilt for safety and for freight movement.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation has identified a 15-20 year timeline for its Interstate 80 improvements. It involves adding a lane in each direction, along Interstate 80, from Minooka to New Lenox.

“We can’t wait,” Greuling said. “It’s our goal to make sure [the project] is accelerated.”

Greuling acknowledged that it may be difficult to get lawmakers in Springfield to advance this project, compared to past efforts to get funding to build Interstate 355 and said the difference is the road already exists.

“We need to stand up as a community,” he said.

Another group, Residents United for Safer Highways, started meeting recently in response to Interstate 80 concerns. Members of that organization intend to host a community town hall meeting in August.

When asked if there is a need for the new coalition, Greuling said the more, the merrier.

“RUSH is focused on a similar idea, but they’re promoting short-term solutions,” he said. “[We] have talked about the groups getting together. We’re not at odds. They’re looking at I-80 and I-55.”

A discussion of the Interstate 80 coalition will be held at 11:30 a.m. July 30 at Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel, 151 N. Joliet St. It will take place during a luncheon and is open to Joliet chamber members at $35 and non members at $45.

For more information or to register, visit www.jolietchamber.com.

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