Lockport city officials are in discussions to determine which of two local roads they want to see designated as the north-south highway for Will County's long-planned 12-mile Caton Farm-Bruce Road corridor project.
City officials are mulling over having either Gougar Road or Cedar Road designated as that essential part of the project to secure federal funding for what they see will be necessary future road improvements and to open up undeveloped lands that have been in limbo for marketing.
Discussion started at the City Council’s Committee of the Whole on Wednesday night and likely will continue into April, with a public meeting set for March 21 to get residents’ feedback.
The estimated $600 million project to create a new east-west route – with a needed new bridge over the Des Plaines River – would be through central Will County and would connect to Interstate 355. The thoroughfare has been in the works since 1999, with a concept plan approved in 2009.
A consortium of municipalities across the area – including Lockport, Will County, Crest Hill, Joliet and Homer Glen – has been involved with the project under the title of the Transportation Corridor Committee since 1999. The project still is in its preliminary stages and could take decades to complete.
The current plan for the project includes a new highway called “the middle alignment” that would be built on undeveloped farmland between 159th Street and Bruce Road, east of I-355.
However, Lockport officials have found that portion of the plan thorny from the beginning because it hinders development opportunities on those lands for the city.
Lockport – along with Homer Glen and Homer Township – commissioned a study in 2017 to ascertain whether Gougar Road or Cedar Road would be viable alternatives to the middle alignment.
That study has been completed, and both roads are feasible and possibly less costly options than building a whole new road, City Administrator Ben Benson said.
Now the City Council needs to decide what it will approve and send to the TCC and Will County for ultimate adoption into the project.
Will County will host a public meeting at Lockport Township High School’s East Campus from 4 to 7 p.m. March 21, during which all three options will be on display for review and discussion. The meeting is “to get a full understanding of what is going on and so that the public has a chance to weigh in on the decision making for the project,” said Christina Kupkowski, a project manager for the Will County Department of Transportation.
At the committee meeting Wednesday, Benson, Mayor Steven Streit and Alderman Darren Deskin voiced preference for the Gougar Road option.
Alderwoman Catherine Perretta and Alderman Jim Petrakos, who both live off Gougar, were concerned about additional traffic on that road, with Petrakos favoring the Cedar Road option.
Streit said that while he had originally thought Cedar Road would be the best option, an evaluation of the traffic patterns has convinced him Gougar Road would be a better option, and necessary road improvements for the busy road could be paid with state and federal funding. Streit said that with development increasing at Lockport Square, drivers likely will choose to use Gougar Road over Cedar Road.
By having Gougar Road adopted as the north-south connector for the Caton Farm-Bruce Road corridor, and having it designated as a Strategic Regional Arterial road, the city could get state and federal funding for up to 80 percent of construction as well as design and engineering costs.
“Because we are going to get the traffic, we might as well get the state and federal dollars to fix it,” Streit said. “Because if we don’t, we’re going to be on the hook for all that extra traffic that goes on that road.”
Benson said discussions with other TCC members have indicated they would approve whichever option the city – as well as Homer Glen and Homer Township – settle on. All of these approvals could be done by the summer, Benson said. After that, Lockport alone would pay about $347,000 for a follow-up environmental study, since most of the land in question is in Lockport’s jurisdiction, he said.