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Local News

New Manhattan-Arsenal Road weight restrictions causing 'conundrum' in Elwood area

A homemade sign enforcing the previous 15-ton weight limit is planted in September along Manhattan-Arsenal Road, demonstrating residents' frustration with semitrailers' frequent use of the road. The limit was reduced to 5 tons last month, but the change has created issues with enforcement consistency.
A homemade sign enforcing the previous 15-ton weight limit is planted in September along Manhattan-Arsenal Road, demonstrating residents' frustration with semitrailers' frequent use of the road. The limit was reduced to 5 tons last month, but the change has created issues with enforcement consistency.

JACKSON TOWNSHIP – Ticketing garbage trucks, school buses and delivery trucks is technically fair game under a new Will County ordinance aimed at limiting semitrailers to a 5-ton weight limit along a small stretch of Manhattan-Arsenal Road between Brandon Road and Route 53.

That’s how the law is being interpreted by both Matt Wells, president of the Midwest Truckers Association, and more importantly, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Wells said he would hope patrol officers treat all drivers with a vehicle weighing more than 5 tons equally.

“What the county decides to do with this will be very interesting,” Wells said. “These residents need to realize what they’ve asked for. No school buses. No garbage trucks. No UPS deliveries. … Technically, that is the rule at this point.”

The Will County Board voted last month to lower the limit from 15 to 5 tons in response to resident complaints about heavy truck traffic in the area.

State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman Chuck Pelkie said Friday the office has determined that state law does not provide for exemptions.

“After further research, there does not appear to be such exceptions,” Pelkie said.

That runs contrary to what assistant state’s attorney Phil Mock, of the civil division, told County Board members last month. He said law enforcement could use discretion when ticketing as long as “reasonable access” – the Interstate 55 and Arsenal Road interchange – to the nearby trucking intermodals remains.

Strictly enforced

That puts the Will County Sheriff’s patrol division – which started enforcing the 5-ton weight limit this month – in a tough position, said Deputy Chief Tom Budde, who heads up the division.

Budde said officers have been operating based on Mock’s comments made at the board meeting.

“This is not as cut and dry as we thought,” Budde said.

The new signs were posted two weeks ago, but enforcement has stepped up in the past week, said Kathy Hoffmeyer, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office. The office sent a letter Nov. 2 to trucking groups informing them of the changes and that the office would be “strictly” enforcing the new weight limit.

Sheriff’s deputies have issued 11 citations of disobeying the signs and 29 overweight citations. Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes said his patrol officers have issued 13 tickets for sign violations and seven warnings.

Pelkie said the State’s Attorney’s Office plans to address these issues with the Sheriff’s Office. Budde said he has a meeting scheduled with Jackson Township residents this week.

Lack of signage

Because the ordinance affects only a small stretch of Manhattan-Arsenal Road, a lack of signage for those exiting the intermodals is making enforcement nearly impossible for patrol officers witnessing eastbound traffic more than 5 tons, Hayes said Friday.

Hayes said he has sent a letter to county leaders to address the lack of signage at Elwood International Port Road, formerly known as Baseline Road, which lies farther west of Manhattan-Arsenal Road, toward the intermodals.

“A traffic enforcement conundrum was created when the portion of Manhattan-Arsenal Road ... was not included and remained at 15 tons,” he said in the letter.

Trucks of legal weight traveling east will see the posted 15-ton weight limit sign until they reach Brandon Road, at which point the new 5-ton weight limit kicks in, Hayes said.

“The driver is basically caught in a trap and can’t turn back,” he said.

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