Okon: It can be a long and winding drive when Brandon Road bridge is closed

The Brandon Road bridge reopened Wednesday, which is good news for those trying to get from here to there.

Getting there has become one of the biggest issues of our time, which is why the arrival of NorthPoint Development in Joliet is not just an issue for people who live near the future development on what has become the city's south side.

Joliet has been adding more places to get to on the south side of the river, which in former years was a mostly rural area where few traveled and little got in the way.

The booming warehouse industry has added a lot of places to get to and a lot of traffic making it harder to get there.

Ask Bob Buldak, who regularly drives his son to a job at one of the large distribution centers in CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet.

He normally uses the Brandon Road bridge, which was closed for more than two months before reopening Wednesday. Buldak discussed his personal travel travails while the bridge was still closed, and added his opinion on the NorthPoint controversy.

“I’m siding with the people in Elwood and Manhattan,” Buldak said.

Buldak lives in a West Side neighborhood off of Essington Road – far from the area where NorthPoint wants to someday develop more than 2,000 acres for another massive industrial park targeted for warehouse and distribution operators.

Interestingly enough, a couple of “Say No to NorthPoint” signs popped up along Essington Road in recent weeks. They can be spotted elsewhere in Joliet neighborhoods that may never be reached by a truck from NorthPoint.

The trouble is many of these folks drive on Interstate 80, down Route 53, and along other roads where growing truck traffic is making their lives more complicated.

The good news is that this development provides jobs – not all of them bad jobs like opponents claim.

But getting to those jobs can be like a bad dream.

Take Buldak's experience when Brandon Road bridge is closed, something that has happened repeatedly since 2016 because of continued problems with the bridge center lock mechanism.

Buldak’s first alternative route is South Chicago Street to Patterson Road, but he first checks to see if a train is on the tracks that cross the road.

If it is ...

“You can go to Laraway and turn right and join the semi parade,” he said, referring to the long line of semitrailers on the same route.

But sometimes a train is on the tracks that cross Laraway, which brings the parade to a standstill.

Then ...

“You go south on Chicago Street to Millsdale (Road),” Buldak said. “If you go to Millsdale, you have to keep your eyes on the railroad tracks there, because if the train’s there it’s not moving. You do a U-ey and go back on South Chicago Street.”

At least the train on the Laraway tracks moves.

“It’s a lot of back and forth,” Buldak said. “It’s a waste of gas, and it’s a waste of time. It adds to your pressure.”