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Will County officials host first open house for freight mobility study

Two more open houses scheduled

WILMINGTON – Mike Kostyra used to ride his motorcycle to work sometimes.

He stopped because he feared for his safety.

An influx of truck traffic the past 10 to 15 years on Joliet area roadways has left debris scattered on the pavement more than ever, he said.

Kostyra, of Shorewood, attended a public open house Tuesday in Wilmington hosted by Will County officials and consulting firm CDM Smith. It was the first of three open houses pertaining to the Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan.

“I’m hoping we can improve how we move and interact with the trucks,” Kostyra said, looking at a map of the county’s busiest freight areas. “I’m curious of their plans.”

It’s perhaps the biggest elephant in the room for Will County government – there are a lot of trucks on interstates that pass through the county, as well as the county’s roadway system, municipal roads and, as much as they discourage it, semis sometimes get lost and make their way down residential streets.

There’s been so much freight growth that the county commissioned this study in addition to its recently completed Will Connects 2040 Transportation Plan, which identified key transportation improvements that will likely be needed through 2040.

The county has secured more than $1 million in grants for the Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan, which is “envisioned as a multimodal freight plan that will provide strategies and goals to guide freight policies, programs, projects and investments throughout Will County in a community-friendly manner,” according to county documents.

Since 2005, Will County has seen 138 percent employment growth in freight-related industries, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Meanwhile, “peer regions,” such as Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Memphis, each have seen growth of 10 percent or less.

The growth in Will County isn’t expected to stop. Transportation and industry job growth in the county is predicted to increase 33 percent by 2026, according to economic projections presented at the public forum.

County officials have said they hope to use this plan, which will be presented in July, to build a better case for federal and state grant dollars to fund transportation projects such as the widening of Interstates 80 and 55.

Despite the on-again, off-again nature of the Illiana Expressway proposal, it still has some worried. The 50-mile east-west interstate would connect Interstate 80 at the west to Interstate 65 in Indiana at the east, along with an interchange near Kankakee that would connect to Interstate 57.

Rudy Piskule, who owns a home near the Illiana’s proposed route through the Wilmington area, said he has seen his property value drop from $240,000 to $190,000 since the formal proposal was made six or seven years ago.

“Now, some of that [value decrease] is the economy, but they do want to put a highway right there,” Piskule said, adding that after the 2018 elections the proposal could gain more momentum.

Piskule, who moved to the Wilmington area in 2005, shared several suggestions with the county. He’s hopeful that I-55 gets widened to three lanes over the Des Plaines River, and has pushed for improvements to Wilmington-Peotone Road as it gets more and more truck traffic.

The county is hosting two more public open houses – from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Plainfield Village Hall, 24401 W. Lockport St., Plainfield; and 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at New Lenox Village Hall, 1 Veterans Parkway, New Lenox.

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