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Local News

Opponents speak out against Walter Strawn Drive shutdown

Elwood officials: Our hands our tied

ELWOOD – Nearly two dozen trucking and logistics company representatives showed up to Wednesday’s Elwood International Port Authority meeting to air concerns about the pending Walter Strawn Drive shutdown.

It’s one of the main access points into the Elwood and Joliet intermodals, but access will be blocked off beginning Jan. 28 following the Illinois Commerce Commission’s decision to shut the railroad crossing down amid safety concerns.

Some raised concerns about the absence of alternatives for overweight truckers, while others said Interstate 55 and Arsenal Road will be flooded with traffic, making it a nightmare to navigate.

“Tantamount is safety,” said Randy Thomas, with the Illinois Trucking Association. “... Even with the improvements on Arsenal, it’s very possible Arsenal will be backed dramatically with one way in, one way out.”

Robert Barranco, vice president for Baar Freight System in Bolingbrook, said the shutdown will be a “tremendous handicap” for his company, which, in part, specializes in overweight services.

“This affects all of us in this room tremendously,” Barranco said.

But village officials said Elwood’s hands are tied.

“We can’t control what goes on beyond city limits,” said Village Administrator Nick Narducci.

The city of Joliet has jurisdiction over nearby Laraway Road and Centerpoint Way, while Will County has jurisdiction over Arsenal Road. The county does not offer overweight permits and allows only grain haulers or trucks with “non-divisible loads” carrying up to 88,000 pounds.

Because Joliet does not allow truckers to access the Joliet intermodal from the north, truckers have to make an illegal U-turn further south and then head back up north to enter into the industrial park.

Elwood has no control over Joliet’s decision to limit that, Police Chief Fred Hayes said after the meeting.

Both county and city officials have said they do not plan to offer overweight permits or open up southbound access to the Joliet intermodal.

Narducci said the village tried earlier this summer to limit access, rather than shut it off completely, by erecting concrete barriers preventing certain turns onto and off Walter Strawn.

But then CenterPoint, APL Logistics and Union Pacific filed suit, arguing the traffic pattern change interfered with interstate commerce. A judge agreed with the suit and granted a temporary injunction, limiting what else could be done.

“The ICC judge said she only has two choices. Keep it open of close it,” Narducci said.

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