Pritzker signs law allowing Will County more control over tollways

Would allow Will County Board to set toll rate for Houbolt Road bridge

On Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law a measure giving county governments authority to establish toll rates on public roadways, a key component of the future Houbolt Road bridge project.

The law, S.B. 531, allows the Will County Board to establish a rate for a toll bridge over the Des Plaines River near Houbolt Road, according to a news release.

Then-Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the proposed toll bridge in 2016 as a unique public-private partnership in which CenterPoint Properties would build and own the bridge. The bridge would cross the Des Plaines River and provide a direct connection to Interstate 80 for semitrailers coming out of CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet.

Joliet area state legislators touted the legislation and its importance for traffic flow to I-80.

“The long awaited bridge project will begin the process of helping alleviate our congested truck areas,” state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, said in the release. “It is a good example of a private-public partnership benefiting our community.”

State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, also praised the law change, which he said gave local governments more discretion over imposing tolls.

“The passage of this legislation modernizes the old tollway structure to accommodate a path forward for Will County while also attracting investment from the private sector," he said in a statement.

The law allows county governments to establish a toll rate schedule for up to 99 years.

The Will County Board approved a tolling agreement for the Houbolt Road extension at its meeting in February. County officials said the extension would be a "huge positive" for the area.

While the rates haven't been set yet, county officials said they'd be set closer to when construction is completed in about two years.

Joliet officials are still negotiating a lease agreement for the bridge with the partnership created by CenterPoint properties. A vote on the agreement was pushed to the Joliet City Council meeting on July 7.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.