Joliet Councilman Larry Hug said city ownership of the NorthPoint bridge should not come as a surprise.
Hug, commenting on recent Herald-News articles reporting that the city plans to own the bridge over Route 53 once it is built by NorthPoint, said ownership is set in the annexation agreement approved in December.
“Anybody who read it should have asked if they had questions,” Hug said.
Some City Council members have said they were not aware that the agreement committed the city to owning the NorthPoint bridges.
Who will own the bridges was not a subject of discussion during long public hearings on the project.
Section 9 of the annexation agreement devoted to infrastructure to be dedicated to the city for ownership does not mention bridges but does refer to streets, which Deputy City Attorney Chris Regis said implies the bridges that support streets.
Hug refers to Section 3 of the agreement that lists what NorthPoint will build, including the bridge over Route 53, a bridge over Manhattan Road, and a bridge over BNSF Railway tracks.
Section 3 also says that NorthPoint will “dedicate to the city where appropriate” infrastructure including the bridges, which Hug said should be read as Joliet taking ownership of the bridges.
“That’s how I read it,” he said.
The bridge over Route 53 is essential for the “closed-loop road network” that NorthPoint and city officials say will ease truck congestion on Route 53 and local roads.
The city has been requiring developers to tie into the closed loop rather than depend on access to Route 53 since approving a previous NorthPoint annexation agreement in 2020. That proviso has tied up continued development of the Joliet Logistics Park at Route 53 and Millsdale Road for two years.
But the council has given signs of easing the closed-loop requirement as the NorthPoint plan continues to face resistance in the courts.
“We can’t stop business from developing,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman said recently. “We can’t keep holding it over developers’ heads.”
A new agreement being drawn up for the Joliet Logistics Park would require the tie-in to the closed-loop but only if a bridge over Route 53 is available by 2025.
Opponents have stalled NorthPoint’s original plan to build a bridge over Route 53 at Walter Strawn Road in Elwood.
The developer then came to Joliet with the proposal that would build the bridge in Joliet near Breen Road, which it appears would become a city bridge three years after construction, according to the agreement.
“We said we would do the closed loop, and we found another way to do the closed loop,” Hug said. “I think we should be applauded for that.”