How Joliet got committed to owning NorthPoint bridges

Most may not have known it, but city attorney says it’s in annexation agreement

The council chamber was at capacity for the NorthPoint hearing on NorthPoint at Joliet City Hall. Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Joliet.

The discovery last week that Joliet will own bridges built for the future NorthPoint Development industrial park came as a surprise to most, including some City Council members who voted for the project.

But Deputy City Attorney Chris Regis said the city is committed to owning the bridges by the annexation agreement approved by the council in December.

That commitment, Regis said, is contained in Section 9A of the agreement that refers to construction and dedication of infrastructure.

Section 9A make no mention of bridges but does cover them, according to Regis.

“It says streets,” Regis said. “A bridge is a street.”

Specifically, 9A says: “Except for service lines to buildings or structures, and certain private roads referenced in Section 3.B.3., all sanitary sewers, storm sewers, water mains, streets, street lights and similar appurtenant improvements, including wells, water treatment facilities, lift-stations and above-ground water storage on the Property shall be constructed by Developer in platted rights-of-way, lots, or easements in accordance with applicable City codes and ordinances and dedicated to the City upon completion, and acceptance by the City.”

The NorthPoint bridge to be built over Route 53 is the key component of the closed-loop road network that the developer says will limit truck traffic on Route 53 and other local roads. The closed loop is intended to separate industrial park traffic from public traffic.

“That’s why we wanted to have NorthPoint in the first place, so we could have the closed loop,” said Councilwoman Sherri Reardon said.

But Reardon said she did not know Joliet intended to own the bridge.

Council members Pat Mudron and Jan Quillman, who like Reardon voted for the NorthPoint project, also said they did not know Joliet intended to own the Route 53 bridge.

A staff report on the project, which the council would have relied on to summarize the annexation agreement, makes no mention of city ownership of the bridges while going into some detail on the subject.

The report details bridges that would be built by NorthPoint for the project, including a railroad bridge over Union Pacific tracks south of Millsdale Road and another over Manhattan Road.

The proposed Compass Business Park would include a gateway bridge over Route 53, pictured in this screen capture from a YouTube 3D video made by NorthPoint Development.

NorthPoint would build the bridges, the report states. But it does not say whether the developer or the city would eventually own and maintain the bridges.

City ownership and maintenance of the Route 53 surfaced last week in a series of emails among Illinois Department of Transportation officials that were obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by Stephanie Irvine, a member of the Just Say No to NorthPoint group that has tried to stop the project.

Irvine said she, too, was first learning that Joliet intended to own the Route 53 bridge.

“In the past, it was going to be their (NorthPoint’s) own private roads, and it was going to be their bridge,” she said.

Bridge ownership means city control over the closed-loop road network, said Councilman Larry Hug, the only one of four council members reached last week who said he was aware Joliet planned to own the bridge.

“We decide who gets to go into the closed loop,” Hug said.

The city has begun requiring warehouse developers along Route 53 to make commitments to use the closed-loop road network if they want city approval.

Hug said city maintenance costs for the Route 53 bridge could be funded with a Special Service Area tax applied to warehouses using the closed loop.