The footprint of this project is several miles from interstates I-55 and I-80, which means it will need to use local roads to get there. The TranSystems traffic study cites that Northpoint Development would create 53,000 trips per day, with 16,000 of those being trucks. They tout a “Closed Loop” roadway system within the project that they contend will keep trucks and cars off of local roads. However, the closed loop will have several entrances/exits for emergency access and employees. Employees are not required to exclusively use the closed loop. Below are sections from both the TranSystems traffic study, as well as from the Kimley Horn traffic study, which was commissioned by Northpoint Development.
HIGH RISK FOR TAXPAYERS
NorthPoint repeatedly emphasizes that this project is at no risk to taxpayers, but the reality is that the bridge would require “PUBLIC PARTICIPATION FROM TAXING BODIES,” as would infrastructure improvements to any roadways outside of the project footprint. Elwood has $10 million dollars’ worth of capital investments that directly relate to this project.
BENEFITS FOR THE DEVELOPER, NOT YOU
Furthermore, the Village of Elwood does not need Northpoint to pay off its debt, and it promises no benefits to the Village of Manhattan. Northpoint Development will be asking for tax abatements by way of TIF of Enterprise Zone — that means that they won’t pay property tax on their development for at least 23 years. If you recall, had a TIF with the village of Elwood, and revenue projections were not achieved. This is a huge gamble that could further drive the village of Elwood’s financial position into further debt.
OVERSATURATION OF WAREHOUSES
There is no doubt with today’s economy that there is a need for trucks and for warehousing. However, this area in particular is oversaturated with warehousing. According to the 2017 Third Quarter Colliers International Research & Forecast Report, the I-55 Corridor vacancy rate is the highest vacancy rate recorded since 2012, and similarly, the I-80 Joliet Corridor vacancy rate is at the highest the submarket’s rate has been since 2014. This report states that the I-80 Joliet corridor vacancy rate is expected to continue rising over the coming quarters as the massive speculation construction projects underway are delivered. Additionally, neighboring Centerpoint has 2,200 acres of available space. See pages 16-18 of the report.
It’s no secret that our infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating to unsafe conditions. With a significant number of deficient bridges, overcrowded roadways, and roadways not designed to handle current traffic, adding Northpoint will only serve to exacerbate the problem. The I-80 Corridor Analysis noted that 20% of the current volume of traffic is comprised of trucks, and the roadway is not sufficient to handle existing traffic.
This project will add pollution, spewing dangerous diesel particulate matter into the air, and it will add more traffic onto our congested roadways, making them even more unsafe and dangerous. According to the last IDOT study, 43% of crashes in Elwood were attributed to semi-trucks. According to the I-80 Corridor study, there were 37 fatalities between 2001-2016 with greater crash rates near Center St. and Rt. 53.
Another byproduct of the project that NorthPoint proudly asserts is that it will bring jobs to the area. While it is true that there will be construction jobs created to build the bridge and warehouses, once complete, the only jobs created will be warehouse distribution jobs. We spoke with a few recruiters for the area who stated unequivocally that they have a difficult time staffing the warehouse positions that they have. These positions are often low-paying, low-skill and temporary — and slated to be replaced by automation in upcoming years.