Joliet wants NorthPoint to get ‘temporary’ access to Route 53

Circumstances cave in on ‘closed-loop’ concept

An aerial view of a warehouse distribution center built by the NorthPoint group near the intersection of Noel Road and Illinois Route 53 in Elwood. NorthPoint is developing the Third Coast Intermodal Hub, a warehouse development of more than 2,000 acres stretching from Joliet to Elwood.

The city of Joliet has joined NorthPoint Development’s cause to get at least temporary access to Route 53.

City Manager Beth Beatty has asked the state to grant NorthPoint’s request for an emergency permit allowing the developer access to Route 53 on a “temporary basis” for warehouses it has developed.

The move has alarmed NorthPoint critics, who have argued that the developer’s plan for a “closed-loop” road network to keep trucks off of Route 53 was a false promise.

The amount of semitrailer traffic on Route 53 has been a growing issue for years, and the city approved the NorthPoint project with plans for a “closed-loop” road network with bridges that would keep trucks off the highway.

The city issued a news release this week saying it wants the Illinois Department of Transportation to issue a permit giving NorthPoint emergency access to Route 53 in light of a court decision in March that imposed a temporary restraining order on NorthPoint’s use of Millsdale Road.

Beth Beatty, Joliet City Manager, speaks at the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce Council for Working Women luncheon on Thursday Mar. 7th, 2024 in Joliet.

The NorthPoint warehouses had been using Millsdale Road to get into the CenterPoint Intermodal Center. But that access was denied by the order issued in an ongoing court case in which CenterPoint Properties contends the NorthPoint plan violates past agreements made with the city of Joliet.

The city wants NorthPoint to have access to Route 53 until it resolves the Millsdale Road issue or develops bridges that would create an alternative route, according to a letter sent by Beatty to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“We can’t landlock the warehouses that are currently operating,” Beatty said Friday.

NorthPoint owns land east and west of Route 53. In 2022, the developer began building warehouses west of Route 53, which appeared to be aimed at getting access to the Joliet and Elwood intermodal yards before a bridge was needed.

But the plan has been foiled at least temporarily by the court order blocking access to Millsdale Road.

A building wall is constructed at the site of the new NorthPoint Compass Business Park along Route 53.

“We have to have access,” Patrick Robinson, vice president of development for NorthPoint, said Friday. “We’re going to get it worked out.”

Robinson said NorthPoint is in the process of seeking state approval for a bridge that would allow the developer to build the closed-loop road network it has planned.

In the meantime, NorthPoint has filled 1.7 million square feet of warehouse space with two users. One is the retailer Target. The other is a third-party logistics company that handles electric batteries.

In the news release issued by the city, Beatty said the city understands “the impact this emergency permit will have on the residents in the area and are committed to a quick resolution. We are working with our state, county, and regional partners to address freight congestion in Joliet and the region for the immediate and distant future.”

But Stephanie Irvine, a leader in the Just Say No to NorthPoint group, called the city’s support for an emergency permit “highly hypocritical” after past promises that NorthPoint development would not rely on Route 53.

“I think this letter shows it’s the same old, same old in Joliet,” Irvine said. “I think it just speaks to a lack of integrity and a complete willingness to bend over backwards for NorthPoint.”