News - Joliet and Will County

Pace launches county base in new Plainfield palace

New facility will replace Joliet garage used by Pace sine 1985

Pace this fall will move the center of its Will County bus operations into a newly built facility in Plainfield that officials say will accommodate more buses amid growing demand for service.

Local officials joined Pace on Thursday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the recently completed 264,000-square-foot facility that includes maintenance, washing and storage areas for buses and office space for administrative staff.

The new garage and offices will replace the roughly 50,000-square-foot building on South Chicago Street in Joliet, where Pace has based its Will County operations since 1985.

“Maintenance employees will have a modern garage to take care of our buses and administrative staff will have better work space,” Pace Executive Director Melinda Metzger said.

Pace will be able to store 135 buses in the new Plainfield facility compared to 50 in Joliet, where, Metzger said, they are parked each night 18 inches apart, and it’s a challenge to get them out the door in the morning.

“Every day is like a synchronized swim adventure,” she said. “All the buses have to move together or they will not get out of the garage.”

The buses in Joliet move through one door. The Plainfield facility has 15 garage doors in the storage area.

The Plainfield garage has 11 maintenance bays compared to four in Joliet, Metzger said.

The Plainfield facility will have 250 employees compared to about 100 in Joliet. Pace also will move employees to Plainfield from South Holland where they now work on Will County operations, which it calls its Heritage Division.

Pace officials said the new garage would be equipped to handle electric buses, which it will begin adding to its fleet next year while planning to reach zero emissions by 2040.

The $52.5 million building was built with state funds through the Rebuild Illinois program.

The new facility sits on 12 acres at 14539 S. Depot Drive and is near the Park-N-Ride that local commuters use to board Pace buses. Those buses ride the shoulder on Interstate 55 to bypass traffic and take riders to Chicago in the morning and bring them back at night.

Plainfield Mayor John Argoudelis noted that the ride-the-shoulder program grew 600% from its start in 2011, when the buses were parked in the lot outside village hall. The boarding spot was moved to Larry’s Diner before the Park-N-Ride opened in 2019.

“We see that Pace will continue to be able to serve our residents well and long into the future,” Argoudelis said during comments on the new facility.

Ridership on the shoulder buses fell during the COVID-19 pandemic and now is about half of what it was pre-pandemic, according to Pace. But average ridership still is more than 1,000 a day, and Pace officials say it is picking up again.

“Our Park-N-Ride lots are filling up again as ridership comes back strong,” Pace board Chairman Rick Kwasneski said. “We soon will be looking for places to expand.”

Pace has not yet decided what it will do with the Joliet building.

It may continue to be used for backup support, bus maintenance or training, said Pace spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken.

“Or we may sell it,” she said.

The building had been used before 1985 as a bus garage for what was then the Joliet Mass Transit District.