Joliet plans ownership of NorthPoint bridge
Officials confirm city will be future owner of future Rt 53 bridge
By Bob Okon
April 21, 2022 at 5:15 am CDT
The city of Joliet would become the owner of a bridge that would serve NorthPoint Development’s future industrial park.
The controversial 2,300-acre project depends on a bridge over Route 53 to create the closed-loop road network that NorthPoint and some Joliet officials say will limit the number of trucks getting onto local roads.
NorthPoint has always proposed the bridge, which has been widely viewed as something to be built and operated by NorthPoint.
But city officials confirmed Wednesday that Joliet would own and maintain the bridge to be built over Route 53 near Millsdale Road.
“That’s in the agreement,” Deputy City Attorney Chris Regis said in reference to an annexation agreement with NorthPoint that covers the Millsdale Road area.
Regis pointed to language referring to the bridges as public right of way, which, he said, “means they will be the city’s responsibility.”
Even so, three City Council members who voted for the agreement in December said Wednesday that they did not know the city would own the Route 53 bridge.
“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” Council member Jan Quillman said when asked about the bridge ownership Wednesday.
Council members Sherri Reardon and Pat Mudron also said they did not know Joliet would own the bridge.
“I don’t remember ever having any conversation about this,” Mudron said.
Council member Larry Hug, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, confirmed that Joliet intends to own the bridge planned near Millsdale Road.
The bridge would be built and paid for by NorthPoint, Hug said. The plan is for the city to take ownership three years after the bridge is built.
“Now, if the city owns the Millsdale bridge, we decide who gets onto the bridge and into the closed loop,” Hug said.
The city already has begun to require warehouse developers along Route 53 to make commitments to send trucks into the NorthPoint closed-loop road network that would connect with the CenterPoint Intermodal Park and its two intermodal yards in Joliet and Elwood.
Hug said it would be better for the city to control access to the bridge than to leave it to private developers.
The Houbolt Road toll bridge now being built over the Des Plaines River will be owned by the city of Joliet. But the joint venture building the bridge, which includes CenterPoint Properties, will maintain and operate the bridge along with paying for construction.
While the city will take on the costs of maintenance for the NorthPoint bridge, Hug said, a Special Service Area could be created to tax bridge users and pay for maintenance.
“There’s a lot of thought that’s gone into this,” he said.
Regis called the Special Service Area tax as “one idea, but that’s down the road.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation has been made aware of Joliet’s intention to own the bridge.
Correspondence between state transportation officials obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Stephanie Irvine, a member of Just Say No to NorthPoint, includes discussion of Joliet’s ownership of the bridge.
The city would own, operate and maintain the bridge, according to a March 31 email from IDOT traffic engineer Thomas Gallenbach.
“The city must be the permit applicant for this bridge,” Gallenbach said in the email. He also said that the developer, NorthPoint, is “on an aggressive schedule.”
The bridge planned near Millsdale Road was added to the project last year as NorthPoint’s plan to build a bridge over Route 53 in Elwood was stalled by litigation brought by the village of Elwood and other plaintiffs, including Irvine.
“Joliet is going to be on the hook for a lot more than they think they are bargaining for,” Irvine said of the city’s readiness to take ownership of the bridge.