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Local News

Joliet plans to bargain for lower share of interchange costs

JOLIET – Just what Joliet will pay for the interchange project planned for the future Rock Run Crossings project at Interstates 55 and 80 is yet to be decided.

City officials are trying to design the project so that Joliet pays nothing for infrastructure costs estimated at $126 million.

“We don’t want the city to pay anything related to the hard costs of the project,” Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said.

Jones said the city is trying to structure the plan so that all the road costs associated with a full interchange off of I-55 and nearby road improvements will be paid by the state and Cullinan Properties.

Cullinan is the developer with a plan to build stores, restaurants, hotels, office space, homes and more in the northwest corner of I-55 and I-80. There is no interstate access to the site now.

Cullinan has already committed to spending $750,000 for phase one engineering for the project. Joliet would pay another $750,000 for the engineering, with plans to recoup the money once the project is developed through tax revenues collected from business on the site.

But the total phase one engineering costs estimated by the state are $7.5 million, and the Illinois Department of Transportation expects Joliet to cover $5.4 million of that amount while the state would pay the other $2.1 million.

The Joliet City Council this month approve a letter of intent with IDOT to cover the $5.4 million.

But Jones said the city believes the IDOT estimates are high and that the city can negotiate for a lower share of the costs once phase one engineering generates data on the project.

“We’re pretty sure that’s a high number, and that number is going to come down once a deal is cut,” Jones said.

IDOT on Tuesday failed to respond to requests for comment on the city’s case that the local share of the engineering costs are likely to come down.

But Jones said city officials believe that IDOT can be persuaded that the state should pick up a larger share of the costs for engineering, interchange construction and road improvements.

Right now, Joliet is expected to cover more than 70 percent of the costs. Jones said the city expects that percentage to be reduced to 40 percent once the benefits of the project can be shown to the state.

The key, he said, is showing how much the entire project, with related road improvements, will ease congestion on U.S. 52, or Jefferson Street, a route that is the responsibility of the state.

“We think data really supports a lower percentage from the city,” Jones said. “We feel that some of those improvements benefiting the state road system should be compensated by IDOT.”

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