Construction of Houbolt Road bridge in Joliet planned for September

Construction of a future Houbolt Road bridge could start in September now that a lease agreement from the public-private project has been approved.

The Joliet City Council on Tuesday approved an agreement that will make the city owners of a toll bridge over the Des Plaines River to be built, operated and maintained by a private partnership created by CenterPoint Properties.

The bridge has been estimated to cost anywhere from $150 million to $200 million to build,

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who pegged the potential cost at $180 million to $200 million, called it “the single biggest private investment in the community.”

Several representatives from United Bridge Partners and CenterPoint, who have formed the joint venture named Houbolt Road Extension JV, were at the meeting. But they limited their comments to one sentence on the likely timetable for the bridge opening.

“We’re hoping end of the year 2022,” CenterPoint CEO Michael Murphy said. “That could roll into spring 2023 with construction starting in September.”

O’Dekirk noted that he started pushing for the bridge “five years ago when I first got elected mayor.”

He recalled a meeting early on with late Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr., who died June 3 and was among county leaders who also had supported construction of a Houbolt Road bridge.

“He deserves credit for this also,” O’Dekirk said. “I was a new mayor. He was the old hand. He definitely lent assistance in getting this done.”

The project was announced in 2016 with the plan for private ownership of the bridge. But it was held up by a legal dispute resolved when Joliet agreed to take ownership and lease back the bridge to the private partnership, which will pay the costs of ownership.

Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis said the 160-page lease agreement took 18 months to complete with "some slight tweaks added to it last night."

The bridge will provide semitrailers with a direct route between the CenterPoint Intermodal Center and Interstate 80 with the aim of taking trucks off of local roads and highways.