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Joliet working on bridge solution to trucking problems

Mayoral candidate says city is not moving fast enough

JOLIET – Mayor Tom Giarrante told the City Council this week that plans are moving ahead as fast as possible on a privately funded bridge project at Houbolt Road that could relieve truck traffic in the city.

Giarrante said Tuesday he has been meeting with officials from the Illinois Department of Transportation, potential investors and other entities for the past couple of months.

“All the stakeholders, the investors, they are moving on it,” Giarrante said. “There are some concerns by the investors to ensure that the trucks use the toll road. ... It is moving forward as fast as it can.”

The project would build a toll bridge over the Des Plaines River at Houbolt Road/Hollywood Road, and provide trucks with direct access to Interstate 80, helping alleviate traffic on Route 53 in the city. Only trucks would have to pay the toll, which would help fund the project, along with private investments.

“We’ve had to tie up some loose ends like approval with [Illinois Environmental Protection Agency] and the corps of engineers,” Giarrante said, adding that the bridge would be a long-term project for a long-term solution.

However, the project became the latest political issue between Giarrante and Councilman Bob O’Dekirk, who is running against Giarrante for mayor next spring.

“Eight months ago, the proposal of this project came forward as a toll bridge,” O’Dekirk said. “It hasn’t moved forward at all and nothing was presented to the city council by the mayor.”

O’Dekirk said he is “willing to lead the way in forging a partnership with this private group to get it done and get it done now.”

O’Dekirk said a semitrailer rollover accident on Interstate 55 near I-80 on Monday afternoon was the last straw for him, referencing previous accidents including two collisions that caused five fatalities July 21.

That crash highlighted discussion about the increase in truck traffic in the region. The Village of Elwood’s also has struggled with implementing traffic controls to lower the number of trucks traveling its stretch of Route 53.

O’Dekirk said Giarrante’s meetings with project officials haven’t been open to city council members. But Giarrante said those meetings are private, due to investors’ wishes to remain unnamed at this point.

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