Saturday, December 5, 2015

Elwood Creates Website and Videos Highlighting Truck Traffic in Will County

Will County roads such as Route 53, Laraway Road, I-80, and I-55 have experienced increased semi-truck traffic in the last 10 years as new warehouses and intermodals have become operational.

The Village of Elwood, site of one intermodal and petitioner in an Illinois Commerce Commission case that resulted in the closing of Walter Strawn Drive, has now launched a website called Safe Roads Illinois.  The website features statistics on truck-related accidents and deaths in Will County and videos of local residents discussing truck traffic in Will County:

Here, Meri Knauer, grandmother of 8-year old Madison Frost, discussed her granddaughter's death. Madison was killed when her family's van was struck by a semi. Knauer stated, "We don't want Madison's death to be in vain, enough is enough":

A mother discusses her fear regarding having her children driving on Will County roads:

A friend of a man killed when a semi struck his car:

Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes discusses fatality crashes in Will County:

A man discusses viewing a truck blow through a red light on Manhattan Road:

The website asks visitors to sign a petition stating:
"If you are tired of truck traffic overwhelming your community and creating dangerous roads, sign the Safe Roads Illinois Petition to tell lawmakers and elected officials that Enough is Enough!
As a concerned resident of Will County, I want my elected officials to:
  • Make truckers pay for blatant disregard of the law
  • Hold developers accountable for their actions and impacts
  • Coordinate enforcement of truck traffic
  • Toughen commercial driver licensing, regulations and penalties"

The logistics and warehousing industry in Will County continues to grow.  In 2015, an Amazon Fulfillment Center opened in Joliet:

Ikea is also planning a warehouse in Joliet.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Route 53 in Will County, Public Meeting on Traffic Safety

The Illinois Department of Transportation is holding a public meeting on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Stone City V.F.W. in Joliet, Illinois on IDOT's Phase I Study to address safety and operations along IL-53.

Specifically, IDOT is studying the stretch of 53 from Rt. 52 (Doris Avenue near Nowell Park) to West Arsenal Road in Wilmington.

The purpose of the meeting is for IDOT to "obtain public input on the transportation issues in the study area, describe the project development process, and provide information on additional public involvement opportunitiesaccording to the Illinois Route 53 Study Website.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk Announces Police Foot Patrols for Downtown Joliet

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk released the following press release regarding the addition of a Joliet Police foot patrol in downtown Joliet:

"Joliet---Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk today announced that two Joliet Police Officers will be assigned to a foot patrol in the Joliet City Center area to increase security for downtown businesses and visitors effective September 27, 2015  

“One of the complaints I heard frequently from both Joliet residents and visitors to our city in the last few years was that they did not feel safe downtown.   Joliet City Center may be one of the safest areas in Joliet due to the presence of the Joliet Police Headquarters, the courthouse and the Sheriff’s department, but all of those uniforms on Jefferson Street can’t be seen for more than a block,” said Mayor O’Dekirk.  “If we want to revitalize downtown Joliet, everyone needs to feel safe in addition to being safe.  The daily presence of two officers patrolling on foot will provide the feeling of security that is necessary for people to want to congregate downtown.”

O’Dekirk compared that need for security downtown to the same security presence on north Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

“Chicago’s premier shopping district has police officers patrolling up and down Michigan Avenue on foot to deter trouble, and it works.  Considering the huge number of people, there are few problems on Michigan Avenue, and those that do arise are handled quickly.  Chicago cannot afford to have people feeling unsafe on Michigan Avenue and Joliet cannot afford to have people feeling unsafe in our City Center,” said O’Dekirk.   “Our new patrol officers will also be closely monitoring the area near the train station.  Union Station is the gateway for many people coming to the city or passing through, and it has become an area of congregation for people with obvious mental imbalances and substance abuse problems.  We will be getting those folks the help they need in the appropriate facilities, which does not include a public train station.”"

Friday, September 25, 2015

Peotone Airport Documentary to Screen at Joliet Junior College Film Fest

Filmmaker Tom Desch has documented Will County residents' fight against the proposed Peotone Airport for more than a decade.  Desch followed members of the citizen group STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down) as they fought against the State of Illinois' use of eminent domain for an airport whose necessity has been argued for decades.  The State of Illinois now owns thousands of acres of land in the proposed airports footprint, including the former Bult Field, which the State of Illinois now operates as the "South Suburban Airport".

Desch's film, The Field, will screen Saturday, October 17th at 4:30 p.m. in the K Building on Joliet Junior College's Main Campus.  Tickets to see the film are free, but should be reserved by calling the Box Office at 815-280-2200.

Trailer for The Field:

The Field: A Fight or Flight Story Trailer from House Painter Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 Will County Fair

The 112th Will County Fair begins Wednesday, August 26th and continues through Sunday the 30th at the Will County Fair Grounds in Peotone, Illinois.  For a full schedule, go here.

Videos from previous Will County Fairs:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lincoln-Way School Board to Vote on Which School To Close, Attendance Boundaries

Voting on which school to close and taking action on attendance criteria are on the agenda for the August 13, 2015 Lincoln-Way Board of Education meeting.  The meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. at the Lincoln-Way Central Fine Arts Center.

Facing a financial deficit and placement on the State of Illinois financial watch list, the district must submit a deficit reduction plan to the State.

Video from the July Lincoln-Way Board of Education Meeting:

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Amazon Building Fulfillment Center in Joliet

Amazon is building a new fulfillment center in Joliet.  The new warehouse is currently under construction just east of the intersection of Laraway Road and Route 53:

Amazon is advertising full-time jobs to be available at the fulfillment center-- .

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I-55 Bridge Inspections In Will County To Begin August 10, 2015

Will County News received the following Illinois Department of Transportation Press Release on inspections of the Interstate 55 bridge over the Des Plaines River:

"CHICAGO - The Illinois Department of Transportation has announced that routine inspections of the Interstate 55 truss bridges over the Des Plaines River near Channahon will begin, weather permitting, the morning of Monday, August 10, 2015.

The inspections, required to be conducted every other year, will result in weekday closures, Monday through Thursday, on I-55 during the daytime hours for approximately two to three weeks.

The southbound bridge will be inspected first, with daily lane closures scheduled in the southbound lanes, weather permitting, between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. The inspections on the northbound bridge will follow, with lane closures scheduled in the northbound lanes between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., weather permitting.

Dynamic Message Signs will be in place while the lane closures are in effect to advise motorists of travel times through the work zone.

Motorists can expect delays and should allow extra time for trips through this area. Drivers are urged to pay close attention to flaggers and signs in the work zones, obey the posted speed limits and be on the alert for workers and equipment.

Find details on other construction projects in IDOT’s District 1 at Updates on the impacts to traffic are available at "

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Forest Preserve District of Will County Programs

Will County Forest Preserve Programs, from the Forest Preserve:

Forest Preserve District Offers Bird, Boat, Farm and Photo Classes

This year’s final two sessions of “Lake Renwick Bird Viewing” tours will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve, located on Renwick Road, 0.5 mile east of Route 30. On Aug. 16 the preserve, which was closed except for the tours as the birds were nesting, will reopen for general use from 8 a.m. to sunset through Feb. 28. Registration is not required for the bird viewings; the program is for ages 7 and older.

 – A “Riverview Farmstead Tour” is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 13, at the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Riverview Farmstead, located on Book Road, south of Hassert Boulevard/111th Street. Discover how three generations of the Clow family built the early settlement farmstead into a commercial farm. Registration is required for this free, all-ages program; call815-886-1467.

MONEE – The Forest Preserve District of Will County will offer “Kayak Fishing 101” from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14, at Monee Reservoir, 27341 Ridgeland Ave. Learn all about fishing from a kayak including the items you will need, safety concerns and registration essentials. The program is for ages 12 and older. Cost: $20 per person. Registration is required; call 708-534-8499

 – Forest Preserve District of Will County “Kayak Kollege” workshops will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m.on Saturday, Aug. 15, at Whalon Lake, located on Royce Road, west of Route 53. Participants must be age 12 or older; ages 12 to 17 must be accompanied by a registered adult. All equipment is provided, including life jackets. No previous experience is required. Cost: $20 per person. Registration is required; call 708-534-8499.
BEECHER – Watch as hummingbirds are banded by an Illinois licensed avian ecologist during a “Hummingbirds up Close” program from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, at Plum Creek Nature Center, 27064 S. Dutton Road. The program is being offered by the Forest Preserve District of Will County in cooperation with the Thorn Creek Audubon Society. Registration is required for the free, all-ages program; call 708-946-2216.
BEECHER – The Forest Preserve District of Will County will offer a “Summer Nature Photography” class from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. onSunday, Aug. 16, at Plum Creek Nature Center, 27064 S. Dutton Road. The program is recommended for beginners and for technology ranging from smartphone cameras to digital SLRs. Dress for the weather. The free program is for ages 16 and older. Registration is required; 708-946-2216.

Fishing for Trash” will be offered from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day starting Tuesday, Aug. 11, and ending Sunday, Aug. 16, at the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Monee Reservoir, 27341 Ridgeland Ave. Stop by the Visitor Center to pick up a garbage bag, fill it with trash and return it to receive a free gift. Registration is not required for the free all-ages program. 
For information on these programs and other Forest Preserve District offerings, visit

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Will County Board Extends Temporary Overweight Permits for Arsenal Road

At the July 16, 2015 Will County Board meeting, the board voted to extend issuing overweight truck permits for Arsenal Road.  The Board heard from people in the trucking and grain exporting industries who described their businesses and their use of Arsenal Road:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

DuPage A.M.E. Church Holds Prayer Walk in Honor of Sandra Bland

A silent prayer walk in memory of Sandra Bland was held today at her church, DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, Illinois.

After the prayer walk, Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. James Miller was asked his thoughts on the fact that officials have already said Bland committed suicide.  Miller said:

"When you say what has happened before an investigation has been completed, you are tainting the investigation.  If you want to know Sandra Bland's character and personality, I invite you to her webpage and you will see she was strong willed and outspoken, but a Christian woman who was seeking reconciliation for this present age.  I'll leave you to your own conclusions."

Members of the church collected signatures in support of a petition asking the U.S. Justice Department to conduct an independent investigation into Bland's death.

"We're asking everyone who will to write Attorney Lynch, the Attorney General of the United States of petition the Justice Department for an independent, an independent and objective, thorough investigation," Miller said.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lincoln-Way School Board Votes to Close School to Reduce Deficit

At the July 16, 2015 Lincoln-Way School Board Meeting, the Board voted to stop consideration of two proposed deficit-reduction options: a tax referendum and cutting classes or extracurriculars.  The only proposed option remaining is closing a school.

Superintendent Tingley presented options for attendance boundaries and school closures.  The Board asked for more information on bus travel times for each of the options.  The Board also discussed the possibility of bringing in an outside consultant to analyze the situation.

The Board will discuss which school to consider for closure at the next meeting.

Video of public comment from a father of a Lincoln-Way student and a Lincoln-Way teacher:

New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann on supporting all Lincoln-Way Schools:

The Lincoln-Way Board of Education discusses budget reduction options:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lincoln-Way School Board to Discuss Deficit Reduction, Possible School Closing

Taking action on deficit reduction options is on the agenda for the July 16, 2015 meeting of the Lincoln-Way School Board.  The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the Lincoln-Way Central Fine Arts Center.

Lincoln-Way was placed on the State of Illinois Financial Watch list in March of 2015.  The School Board must turn in a budget reduction plan to the State by September 2015.

Deficit reduction options that have been discussed include closing a high school, a tax referendum, and cutting classes and extra-curriculars.  Check out the July 16, 2015 Lincoln-Way School Board Meeting Agenda and information on the district's financial situation:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Plainfield Police Post Photos of Airsoft Weapons, Highlight Split-Second Decisions Officers Must Make

The Plainfield Police Department has posted a statement and pictures on its Facebook page regarding a recent police call in Plainfield.

Statement on the Plainfield Police Facebook page:
"Are these weapons and gear real or fake?
After looking at them for a few minutes you may be able to realize that all this gear is related to Airsoft activities but imagine being a police officer and coming upon a group carrying these items and you have to decide in a second or two whether they are real or fake?
Members of our department faced this exact scenario this past Friday when they were dispatched to a call reporting people running around near a residential area carrying rifles and other weapons. When they arrived, officers made contact with two (2) of the offenders relatively quickly. While they were still trying to determine if the weapons were real or not a third offender began to approach the officers in a tactical manner, partially hidden by nearby brush, with his weapon pointed in the officers direction. Another responding officer saw the third offender from a distance and drew his weapon to possibly engage the subject and prevent the subject from harming the other officers. This officer took a calculated risk and gave the offender a verbal warning to drop his weapon. If he had been wrong this situation could have proven fatal to the offender or officers.
Thankfully, the third offender did drop his weapon and was taken into custody without further incident. As it turns out, these were three teens with Airsoft items and thankfully no one was injured.
We highlight this incident to remind parents that do decide to purchase these items or allow their children to play with these items to make sure they are clearly marked as non-deadly weapons and to also make sure parents are aware of where they are participating in these activities.
This is a scenario that could have been unbelievably tragic and would have stayed with all the people involved and many more for the rest of their lives."

To see the photos, go here

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Would a Houbolt Road Bridge Help Will County Traffic?

At a June 17, 2015 of the Elwood International Port Authority, Salvatore Di Bernardo, Executive Vice President of Ciorba Group, Consulting Engineers, gave a presentation on a Houbolt Road Bridge over the Des Plaines River.  After the presentation, audience members working in the logistics and rail industries in Will County and Village of Elwood officials discussed how a potential Houbolt Road Bridge might affect truck traffic in Will County:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Federal Judge Rules Illiana Tollway's Approval Invalid

The Environmental Law and Policy Center issued the following release today after a ruling by Federal Judge Jorge Alonso:
"Chicago—The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued a strong decision declaring the federal and state transportation agencies’ approvals of the proposed Illiana Tollway to be illegal.

“The Federal Court decision is a big victory for the Environmental Law & Policy Center and our clients and for sensible transportation planning and priorities,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We are very pleased the Federal District Court has ruled in our favor, which should bring the boondoggle proposed Illiana Tollway to an end.”

The Federal District Court held that the Federal Highway Administration’s and Illinois Department of Transportation’s approvals of the final Tier One Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) were “arbitrary and capricious and in violation of NEPA” (National Environmental Policy Act). 

Judge Jorge Alonso determined that IDOT’s plans to build the Illiana Tollway was based on analyses that are “fatally flawed.” He said the agencies used a circular logic to make their initial case about how the proposed Illiana Tollway will lead to population growth and traffic demand. They assumed traffic growth would be the same regardless of whether the costly proposed new Illiana Tollway was ever built. The Court remanded the EIS and ROD to be redone in accordance with the decision and applicable law. 

Today’s Federal Court decision forces the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to go back to the drawing board.

“IDOT, INDOT and FHWA need to go back to square one, or not at all,” said Learner. “It’s time for Gov. Rauner and the federal and state transportation agencies to bring the proposed Illiana Tollway to an end. We need to close this sad chapter in Illinois transportation politics and misplaced priorities. The Illiana Tollway is a fiscal boondoggle, contrary to sound regional transportation policy, and would degrade the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.”"

Read the judge's summary opinion here.  

Houbolt Bridge Presentation on Agenda for Elwood International Port Authority Meeting

A presentation on a "Houbolt Bridge" is on the Agenda for the June 17, 2015 5:00 p.m. meeting of the Elwood International Port Authority.   The Elwood International Port Authority meets at the Elwood Village Hall--401 Mississippi in Elwood.

The Houbolt Bridge has been proposed as a way to route trucks from the Elwood and Joliet Intermodals onto I-80.  It has been suggested that a Houbolt Bridge would relieve traffic on Laraway, Route 53, and other roads.

Here is the agenda for the meeting, from the Village of Elwood's website:


Wednesday, June 17, 2015
5:00 PM
(limited to two (2) minutes per person)

  1. ICC Update
  2. Traffic Patterns
  3. Seasonal Issues
  4. Elwood International Port Directional/Way Finder Signs
  5. OJT (On the Job Training) Hiring Grant Nisha Floyd
  6. Houbolt Bridge Presentation:
6a. ENGINEERING: Salvatore Di Bernardo, PE Executive Vice President CIORBA GROUP, Consulting Engineers

6b. ENVIRONMENTAL: Stacy MeyersPolicy Coordinator OPENLANDS

Friday, June 5, 2015

Traffic Problems Continue as Illiana is Put on Hold

By Mary Baskerville

MANHATTAN—The governor’s announcement to suspend work on the Illiana Expressway puts Manhattan in the position of waiting for transportation solutions.  “The problem is all the towns and municipalities are caught in this tug-of-war between the governor and the legislators,” Mayor James Doyle said.

“With everybody—it’s wait and see.”

The Illiana would help relieve heavy truck traffic through the center of town, Doyle said. Meanwhile, the Village of Manhattan continues to see about a ten percent increase in heavy truck traffic travel on U.S. Route 52 in the wake of the closing of Walter Strawn Drive in Elwood, he said.

Citing a lack of money, the governor’s office said in a news release Tuesday that the Illiana would be taken off the current multi-year plan list. The release went on to say: “It is the determination of IDOT that the project costs exceed currently available resources. The Department will begin the process of suspending all existing project contracts and procurements.”

Speaking after the regular village board meeting, Doyle said the governor’s action doesn’t necessarily kill the Illiana:   “It’s taken off the list—but the study still counts. If they would have discarded the study, then it would have been dead for sure. But since the study is not discarded, if they come up with funds, if they figure out a way, they could put it back on the list.”

The stop on the Illiana “is putting the congestion back on I-80 and 55 and 53—and they are already hazards now,” Doyle said. “They are bottlenecks for trucks, and there are more accidents than ever before.”  

The village had been in favor of the Illliana and wanted to see an interchange at Cedar and Wilmington-Peotone Road, he said. 

A hold on the Illiana does not change Manhattan's planning:  “For right now, it doesn’t change the planning,” Doyle said. “We can’t stop trucks from using the state truck routes.”  

There have been no recent truck counts through town, but the village will enforce weight limits and speed limits: “We want the residents to be safe.” 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Breaking: Governor Rauner Stops Illiana Expressway

Governor Rauner issued a news release outlining steps his administration is taking "to begin balancing the phony Madigan-Cullerton budget."

The Illiana Expressway was included on the list of steps the Governor will take
"In light of the state's current fiscal crisis and a lack of sufficient capital resources, the Illiana Expressway will not move forward at this time. As a result, the Illinois Department of Transportation will remove the project from its current multi-year plan. It is the determination of IDOT that the project costs exceed currently available resources. The Department will begin the process of suspending all existing project contracts and procurements."

The Sierra Club released the following statement in response to Rauner's decision:
"We're pleased that IDOT has heard the concerns of farmers, local officials and business owners. This project would not only waste taxpayer money, but would disrupt their way of life. We pledge to work with local citizens and leaders to plan for transportation solutions for Will Co. and for creating jobs while making the best use of public resources. "

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Will County Transportation Issues to be Discussed at Open Houses

Will County is inviting citizens to share their thoughts on the county's transportation future.

Will County is creating a long-range transportation plan--Will Connects 2040-- which will delineate how the county will use transportation resources.

Will County gained population during the housing boom.  Furthermore, Will County is home to two intermodals that together comprise the largest inland port in North America.  At the open house, the public will be able to provide input on how to prioritize solutions to the increased traffic.

The dates and times of the open houses are:

April 28, 4-7pm
Joliet Junior College
1215 Houbolt Road
Concourse C*1031
Joliet, IL 60431

April 29,4-7pm
Wilmington City Hall
Council Chambers
1165 S. Water Street
Wilmington, IL 60481

May 5, 4-7pm
New Lenox Village Hall
Community Room
1 Veterans Parkway
New Lenox, IL 60451

May 12, 4-7pm
Governors State University
Hall of Honors
One University Parkway
University Park, IL 6048

Mural Installed at Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville

The Forest Preserve District of Will County's Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville documents the history of the 1700's in the land that is now Illinois.  The museum features exhibits on the Great Lakes Fur Trade and the Potawatomi Native Americans.  The museum recently added a mural by artist Jeanine Hattas Wilson.  

Museum Supervisor Chris Gutmann sent Wilson photos of items on display at the Museum, including its birch bark canoe, and she incorporated them into the mural. The scene is set on the Des Plaines River, as is the museum, and a Potawatomi summer lodge sits across the river in the mural’s background.

“That’s definitely my favorite thing to do, working in a museum and public spaces,” she said. “Using murals is a great way to tell historical stories. You want to capture a feeling for a moment. You’re capturing the story in one shot.”

The mural cost $9,900 and was paid for with funds from the Forest Preserve's operating fund.

Video of the mural's creation:

Hattas Public Murals: "Painting Fur Trade Mural" from Jeanine Hattas Wilson on Vimeo.

The mural can be viewed during museum hours: 

Tuesday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sunday: Noon-4 p.m.
Monday: Closed

The Isle a la Cache Museum is located at 501 E. Romeo Road (135th Street), east of Route 53, in Romeoville. 

Monday, April 20, 2015


Joliet Catholic Academy's Original Victory Light

Church, Downtown Joliet

Harrah's Casino and Church in Downtown Joliet

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Enbridge Energy Makes Donation to Friends of the Forest Preserve District of Will County

Enbridge Energy officials present a donation to the Friends of the Forest Preserve District Foundation on April 9. Pictured from left to right are: Foundation Board member Mike Fricilone, Foundation Board Chairwoman Ann Dralle, Forest Preserve District Board President Suzanne Hart, Enbridge executives John Gauderman and Scott Clark, and Foundation Board member Denise Winfrey.  Photo by the Forest Preserve District of Will County.

Enbridge Energy recently made a donation to the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of Will County.  According to its website, "Enbridge owns and operates the world’s longest crude oil and liquids pipeline system, exporting 65 per cent of Western Canadian oil and importing 13 per cent of U.S. daily imports as the largest single conduit of crude oil into the United States."

The Enbridge Southern Lights Pipeline begins in Manhattan, Illinois and ends in Alberta, Canada.
Enbridge tanks in Manhattan, Illinois

Enbridge's Line 78 Project is a pipeline that will cross Will County as it goes from Flanagan, Illinois to Griffith, Indiana.  

Press release on the donation from the Forest Preserve District of Will County:
"Enbridge Energy donated $266,400 to Friends of the Forest Preserve District of Will County, the Forest Preserve District’s non-profit Foundation, during the April 9 meeting of the District’s Board of Commissioners.

The donation will be used to purchase trees, tree and shrub groupings and seeds for a restoration project at the District’s 790-acre Forked Creek Preserve, which is located in Florence and Wesley townships and a portion of Wilmington. The project will restore a 24-acre wooded corridor and a complementary 18-acre buffer site, which will benefit bats, migratory birds and other wildlife species for years to come.

The check, which is the largest donation to the District’s Foundation to date, was accepted by Foundation Board Chairwoman Ann Dralle. Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners President Suzanne Hart thanked Enbridge for voluntarily mitigating the impact of the Superior, Wis.-based company’s new Line 78 crude oil pipeline that will run from Pontiac to Griffith, Ind.

Scott Clark, Enbridge’s Line 78 project director, said the company always searches for ways to mitigate its pipeline projects and it has donated $50 million to communities where it does business over the past decade.

“As we come through (areas), we leave them either the same or better than we found them,” he said. “We really strive to give back to the local communities.”

John Gauderman, director of Enbridge’s Chicago region operations, said the company’s partnership with the District and its Foundation “provides us another opportunity to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the communities where we operate and the environment,” he said.

Past donations from Enbridge have been used by the Forest Preserve District to purchase signs for Isle a la Cache Museum, Centennial and Veterans Memorial trails, and land restoration and tree planting at O’Hara Woods."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

White Oak Growers asks court for review of Will County marijuana growing license

By Mary Baskerville

MANHATTAN--When Peter Ford, Ken Salamone, and Steve Maslak of White Oak Growers sought a license to grow medical marijuana on a 34-acre farm in Wilton Center, the men said their background in energy development on the East Coast gave them experience in understanding how to follow government regulations and confidence that their Illinois application met all the requirements.

Earlier this year, the award went to Cresco Labs of Chicago. Cresco also was named to receive the license in two other districts, including Kankakee County.
In a suit filed Wednesday in the Circuit Court of Cook County, White Oak Growers is seeking an injunction to prohibit the Illinois Department of Agriculture from issuing the cultivation center license, and is seeking a court review of the scoring.

Ford said Wednesday that the injunction will allow the courts to “examine the decision making process.”

“There was an expectation that the law—the law of the land would be followed,” Ford said. “The suit claims Illinois set out very specific rules….that were not followed.”

The suit alleges, among other issues, that when the department moved away from scoring security measures on a point basis to a pass/fail basis, the final scores may have been impacted.

White Oak Growers alleges that the Department of Agriculture failed to follow the guidelines it created in granting the license for the three county district formed by Will, Kendall, and Grundy Counties.

Ford said today that the Department of Agriculture has had zero communication with White Oak Growers since the beginning of the year. He said the state did not inform them that the award had gone to another firm.

White Oak Growers’ proposal called for a 40,000 square foot, one-story indoor greenhouse and 30,000 square feet of processing and offices for an $8 to $9 million dollar facility. 

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.

Video of closed Walter Strawn Drive in Elwood:
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.”

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:"

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 or follow @centerpointprop on Twitter."