Local News

Joliet, Will County seek grant to plan for future growth

Study would be used to predict impact on roads

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Trucks drive through a yard of shipping containers Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at CenterPoint Intermodal in Elwood, Ill.[]

The plan that people have said has been needed for years could be in the making.

Joliet and Will County will apply for a $250,000 state grant to plan for future warehouse development.

City Manager David Hales said the study would be used to predict future impact on roads and bridges if yet undeveloped land, now zoned for industrial projects, is built up.

Zoning now in place would allow for 40 million square feet of industrial development in Will County, Hales told the Joliet City Council at a Monday workshop meeting.

“Not all of that is in the Joliet area, but we do think as much as 60 percent could take place in the Joliet-Elwood area,” Hales said.

Recent warehouse plans along the Route 53 corridor have faced criticism from residents and even public officials, who have said local governments do not have a plan in place to manage the truck traffic that comes with new distribution operations.

Route 53 and Laraway Road would be “the nexus” for the area to be studied if the grant is awarded, said John Greuling, president and chief executive officer for the Will County Center for Economic Development.

Greuling noted landowners have been seeking to annex land along Route 53 to Joliet for future industrial development in recent months.

“The question has to be on every council member’s mind: Can our roads handle that?” Greuling said.

“I often get asked,” he said, “ ‘OK, Greuling, if another warehouse gets built, how many hundreds of trucks is that going to add? What’s it going to do to Interstate 80?’ ”

Hales said the study would examine those kinds of questions.

“What is that future build-out, and how do we make sure we have planning for all that development, if it occurs?” Hales said.

“What we’re really lacking is that plan for ultimate build-out, and something that would guide future discussions,” he said.

Joliet and Will County each would need to contribute $25,000 to get the grant, Hales said.

Such a plan also could put local officials in a better position to get state and federal funding for road and highway improvements, Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said.

“We’ve been told repeatedly that the communities that are ready to go are in the best position to get the money,” O’Dekirk said.

The plan would be used to help make a case for road and highway improvements to accommodate economic growth.

Greuling said federal and state money is going to fund smaller shares of local road projects.

Noting that the past standard was to expect 80 percent funding from state and local governments and 20 percent locally, Greuling said, “Moving forward, that ratio is going to reverse. We’re going to need more and more local funding.”

The City Council gave the OK.