ELWOOD – Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is getting fewer complaints from funeral goers since the village rerouted truck traffic away from a railroad crossing where funerals and semitrailers often have clashed.
“It’s definitely better. I’m hearing a lot less about it,” said Peter Young, the cemetery director. “We typically get complaints from people with some regularity, but not so much since they’ve made the changes.”
The new route steers trucks away from the Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing, where semitrailers crashed the gates 47 times in 2013. The location also is a spot where funeral processions have been disrupted by semitrailers.
Increasing truck traffic near the Joliet and Elwood intermodals on Centerpoint Properties, coupled with the crossing’s close proximity to the national cemetery’s main access point at Hoff Road off Route 53, has caused problems for funeral goers for years, he said.
Before the new restrictions, which were put in place May 26, Young said he often would hear of mourners frequently showing up too late, or not at all, for the burials of their relatives and friends after being cut off by an 18-wheeler.
“Because of the amount of truck traffic and the funeral processions coming down 53, we have trucks cut them off. Are they aware it’s a funeral procession? I don’t know. Do they know they’re disrupting? I don’t know. But people do complain about it, no question,” he said.
For years, trucks have often used Route 53 and Walter Strawn Drive as a shortcut to reach Joliet’s Union Pacific Intermodal, but that’s no longer an option with the village’s new prohibition of certain turns.
Village officials say the restrictions were put in place amid public safety concerns at the crossing. In some cases, trucks waiting for funeral processions were stuck on the tracks and drove through the gates to avoid trains.
The situation is unique given that the veterans cemetery sees anywhere from 15 to 25 processions each day, with Mondays and Fridays being peak periods.
Despite Young’s support, the reroute has been denounced by several business groups and trucking associations who say truckers now have to travel miles out of the way to reach their destination.
Young sent a letter to the village last week in support of the recent traffic reroute, noting “the chaos and disrespect shown previously by the trucks have decreased substantially in a short time.”
“While I get it from the economic standpoint, it can be tough trying to explain it to the grieving family members,” he said.
A traffic count will be conducted this week by the Chicago-based engineering firm, Baxter & Woodman, said Max Bosso, director of engineering and public works in Elwood. The change in traffic flow is expected to reduce the number of vehicles along Walter Strawn by 1,000 to 2,000 a day.