Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Illinois Commerce Commission Orders Rail Crossing at Walter Strawn in Elwood Closed

The Illinois Commerce Commission ruled today that the rail crossing at Walter Strawn Road and Route 53 must be closed.

The Village of Elwood released the following press release after the ruling:

"After a year-long battle, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) unanimously ruled today that the state’s most dangerous rail crossing, located at Route 53 and Walter Strawn Drive in the Village of Elwood, must be closed within two weeks, no later than January 28th, 2015.

Joining the Village in support of closing the crossing have been the Illinois Department of Transportation, Union Pacific Railroad, and staff at the Illinois Commerce Commission – the agency that governs rail crossing safety across Illinois. The decision came despite the efforts of intermodal facility owner CenterPoint Properties, which argued to keep the crossing open despite the myriad of safety concerns.

“Despite the special interests and clout, justice has finally prevailed today,” said Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes. “We are pleased that the ICC Board agrees with the Village of Elwood, the railroad companies and transportation authorities that safety is Priority #1. This ruling will help us keep our residents, commuters, and truckers safe on our streets and shows respect to our fallen heroes. Ultimately, this decision will save lives.”

Due to the 8,000 trucks that pass through the area each day, the troubled crossing has been the site of several accidents and near-misses in recent years, with more than 50 crossing gates smashed by semi-tractor trailer trucks in 2013 alone. In June, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also decried the crossing, noting that the heavy truck traffic on Route 53 consistently cuts off the 15 to 20 funeral processions of deceased veterans en route to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery each day. The practice leads to frequent separations of mourning parties from the procession and, in some cases, causing loved ones to miss the interment of those who have honorably served our nation.

In June 2014, the Chicago Tribune profiled the issue as part of a front-page story entitled: “Small town fights big time truck traffic.”http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-07-09/news/ct-elwood-fights-trucks-met-20140709_1_elwood-truck-traffic-village-board-member

Elwood, which began requesting that the rail crossing close since the ICC opened the investigation in November 2013, had been involved in an evidentiary hearing in front of an administrative law judge for several months before today’s decision was handed down. At the close of the hearing in December, Chief Administrative Law Judge Latrice Kirkland-Montague issued a recommendation to the full ICC to close the crossing despite vehement objections from CenterPoint Properties, calling it an “immediate safety concern.”

CenterPoint argued that closing the crossing would disrupt commerce and negatively impact the corporation’s bottom line and only offered short-term solutions.

“This ruling proves that, despite the enormous financial resources they put forward, CenterPoint could not hide the fact that this crossing posed a real and immediate danger, not only to the people of Elwood, but to the truckers that CenterPoint employs and Amtrak passengers who ride the train,” continued Hayes. “We are proud to have fought to protect our residents and ensure that those who are mourning the loss of our beloved veterans can safely and simply travel to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.”

While some safety improvements had been implemented during the past year, including slowing the closing of crossing gates and adding part-time police officers to monitor traffic at the crossing, the ICC determined efforts to mitigate danger fell short.

“No evidence was introduced by any party [during the hearings] as to traffic signal changes, traffic management revisions or railroad warning device changes or additions that would eliminate the safety concerns as between rail traffic, vehicular traffic, and the funeral processions,” Kirkland-Montague wrote in the order. “The conflict between vehicle traffic at and near the Strawn Road Crossing with funeral processions creates an immediate safety concern. In order to remedy this immediate safety concern, temporary closure of the crossing is necessary.”

In addition to the shattered crossing gates, an 8-year-old girl was killed after a collision with a truck nearby, which also left her sister seriously injured. In 2012, an Amtrak passenger train nearly collided with a stalled semi-truck.

Last spring, the Village released a police squad camera video that captured a truck crashing through rail crossing gates at Walter Strawn Drive. Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3mY7AEa1G8"

Will County News spoke with Chief Hayes regarding traffic near Elwood in the summer of 2014:


CenterPoint released the following statement following the ruling:


"OAK BROOK, IL – Today the Illinois Commerce Commission voted to close the rail crossing at Route 53 and Walter Strawn Drive on an interim basis due to safety concerns. The ICC ruling calls for the crossing to be closed no later than January 28. While we respect the ICC’s decision, we will continue to evaluate the intersection at Strawn and Route 53, as well as other intersections in and around the CenterPoint Intermodal Center (CIC), to ensure the continued safety of the park as it continues to develop.

The Illinois Department of Transportation shares our concern and filed a letter on December 23, 2014 to the Administrative Law Judge expressing belief that “the alternates to the closure of the Walter Strawn Drive railroad crossing are viable and worth reconsideration” and calling for an impact study prior to the closure of the crossing.

CenterPoint’s primary concern, along with the other parties represented, has always been safety. The Village of Elwood has repeatedly attempted to portray CenterPoint as an obstacle in the effort to develop a safe, long-term solution to the traffic issues at the CIC, and particularly at Walter Strawn Drive. This is patently false.

CenterPoint continues to believe that closing Walter Strawn Drive will create hazardous conditions in areas not currently suited to handle the capacity of industrial traffic.  Without conducting a regional traffic impact study to consider the effects of displaced traffic, we are convinced the displacement of thousands of vehicles each day from the closed crossing, without a defined route in place to access the Intermodal Center, will cause more damage and harm on regional traffic, resulting in unwanted and potentially hazardous situations.

During the ICC hearings, CenterPoint defended continued access to Walter Strawn Drive with the inclusion of several features and upgrades to improve the crossing in order to ensure regional safety. In her recommendation to the ICC, the Administrative Law Judge Latrice Kirkland-Montague noted that CenterPoint has made efforts to increase safety at the crossing, including:
·       Posting billboards encouraging the use of I-55 and Arsenal Road as a primary entrance to the CenterPoint Intermodal Center
·       Initiating efforts to station Will County Sherriff escorts for funeral processions
·       Meeting with tenants and issuing letters to encourage the use of I-55 and Arsenal Road
·       Coordinating with traffic experts and the director of the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in an attempt to develop an alternate funeral procession route

CenterPoint believes it is imprudent to close the crossing without studying the implications of displaced traffic from Walter Strawn Drive, the safety issues that could impact surrounding local and regional thoroughfares, and the impact on the businesses who have spent millions establishing operations within the Village of Elwood and the City of Joliet.

Therefore, CenterPoint continues to recommend that the most sensible course of action to ensure public safety is to carry on the ICC’s process and allow for traffic safety experts to evaluate both short-term and long-term alternatives. The docket on the ICC case remains open, and CenterPoint will continue work with all appropriate parties to analyze and evaluate traffic safety improvements, such as alternate routes and other technologies. Safety has always been the highest priority in the development of the CIC. We remain committed to being a good corporate neighbor and protecting our investment in the economy and infrastructure of the region.

The CIC-Joliet/Elwood, located on more than 6,500 acres stretching from Elwood to Joliet, is the largest and one of the most successful inland ports in North America. Located 40 miles southwest of Chicago, the facility is strategically positioned at the epicenter of the region’s immense transportation infrastructure.

Over the past 15 years, CenterPoint has invested more than $1.5 billion in the CIC-Joliet/Elwood, resulting in job creation and tax support for the community. The development has resulted in more than $7 million per year in new property taxes for the Village and a total investment in the Village of Elwood of more than $800 million. Direct benefits to the community, worth tens of millions of dollars, funded primarily by CenterPoint, include road improvements; support for police and fire services; expansion of public utilities, including a new water and wastewater treatment plant; a Village water tower and a Village park.


Statement attributable to Michael Murphy, Chief Development Officer, CenterPoint Properties


About CenterPoint Properties
CenterPoint Properties is focused on the development, acquisition and management of industrial property and transportation infrastructure that enhances business and government supply chain efficiency. The company invests in major coastal and inland port logistics markets anchoring North America’s principal freight lanes. CenterPoint‘s portfolio includes 45.5 million square feet and 6,000 acres under development in the company’s integrated intermodal industrial parks. For more information on CenterPoint Properties, visit www.centerpoint.com or follow @centerpointprop on Twitter." 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Siberian Husky Sled Mushing Demonstration at Monee Reservoir


The Forest Preserve District of Will County and the Siberian Husky Club of Greater Chicago are teaming up to offer an exciting chance to learn about Siberian huskies and sled racing.

 See Siberian huskies in action during the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s ‘Musher Mania’ on January 10, 2015 at Monee Reservoir.  Photo courtesy of the Forest Preserve.
"Bundle up and enjoy the frosty festivities on Saturday, January 10, 2015 from noon to 4 p.m. at Monee Reservoir, 27341 Ridgeland Ave., Monee. This is the 21st year the District has partnered with the Siberian Husky Club of Greater Chicago to offer the free, all-ages event. Enjoy presentations about the Siberian husky breed, the Iditarod dog sled race, and mushing skills, and then watch sled dog teams in action. The dogs will use wheeled sleds if there is no snow.
Dog run demonstrations by the Siberian Husky Club will be held at noon1:45 and 3 p.m. A husky presentation is scheduled for 1 p.m., and snowshoe races take place at 2:15 p.m.  Pan for "gold," take a photo with a sled dog, roast marshmallows or take a break inside a warming tent where you can talk to a husky rescue group, pet a husky puppy, and create a dog sled craft.
Registration is not required. If you are coming to the event, please leave your own dog at home for everyone’s safety.
All of the activities are held outside on uneven and possibly snow-covered terrain. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. For information, visit ReconnectWithNature.org."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Tree Recycling in Will County

What: Forest Preseve District of Will County Christmas Tree Recycling, all trees will be recycled into mulch used for Forest Preserve District landscaping and trails.

When: Starts Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014 and ends on Saturday, Jan. 10. 2015

Where:  Trees may be dropped off in designated parking lots from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at four Visitor Centers:  Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville, Monee Reservoir in Monee, Plum Creek Nature Center in Beecher and Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet. Remove all lights, tinsel and ornaments before dropping off your tree. This program is for individual households, not commercial surplus.

Will County Forest Preserve offers Twilight Tubing

Check out info on tubing in Beecher, from the Forest Preserve District of Will County:

"BEECHER – Tube the sled hill at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve under the moon’s glow during “Twilight Tubing” from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014 at the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Plum Creek Nature Center, 27064 S. Dutton Road. Bring your own sled (no steel runners, snowboards or steerables, please) or rent a tube for $1 with a valid driver’s license or state ID.  After sledding, warm up by a fire and purchase a cup of hot chocolate at the Nature Center. Hot water also will be available if you bring your own cocoa packets and cups. Registration is not required for the free, all-ages program. Call 708-946-2216 for sled conditions. For information, visit ReconnectWithNature.org."

Beekeeping Class Offered in Beecher

Start the New Year off with a beekeeping class!  From the Forest Preserve of Will County:

"BEECHER – The Forest Preserve District of Will County will offer “Introduction to Beekeeping,” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Plum Creek Nature Center, 27064 S. Dutton Road. Guest presenters with a combined 45 years of experience will teach beginners about the lives of honeybees, the fundamentals of beekeeping and beekeeping tools. They also will demonstrate how to set up a hive. This workshop is presented in time for you to order your own supplies to get started with beekeeping this spring. For a preview of the workshop, read “First Lessons in Beekeeping by Keith S. Delaplane. Books may be purchased at Plum Creek Nature Center. The program takes place indoors and is for ages 18 and older. Cost: $20 per person. Register by Jan. 2; call 708-946-2216. For information, visit ReconnectWithNature.org." 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Wilmington Lighted Holiday Parade 2014


Wilmington's downtown merchants' windows are filled with holiday scenes, creating a festive backdrop for Wilmington's annual lighted Holiday parade.  This year's parade is Saturday, November 29th, 2014 at 5:00 p.m..  The tree lighting ceremony is at 6:15 p.m..

Antique store window in downtown Wilmington, Illinois 
Antique store window in downtown Wilmington, Illinois 
Antique store window in downtown Wilmington, Illinois
Christmas decorations on display at The Flower Loft in downtown Wilmington

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Lenox Park District Referendum Election Results 2014

To view results in the November 4, 2014 New Lenox Community Park Referendum Election, go here.  Results will begin to post after polls close. 

Mokena Park District Referendum Election Results 2014

To view results in the November 4, 2014 Mokena Park District Referendum Election, go here.  Results will begin to post after polls close. 

Joliet Park District Referendum Election Results 2014

To view results in the Joliet Park District Referendum, go here.  Results will begin to post after polls close. 

Wilton Township Referendum Election Results 2014

To view results from the Wilton Township Referendum, go here.  Results will begin to post after polls close.