Houbolt bridge construction ready to go

Toll bridge over Des Plaines River first announced in 2016 is about to be built

Construction of the Houbolt Road bridge is expected to start within the next couple of weeks.

“We’re a full go as of today,” Michael Murphy, chief development officer for CenterPoint Properties said Tuesday.

Murphy said a construction trailer should be on the site “in the next couple of days. ... It will take a week or so to go to work.”

CenterPoint Properties is a partner in the private joint venture that will build the toll bridge over the Des Plaines River.

“We anticipate completion in the spring of 2023,” Murphy said.

The entire project — including the bridge, widening of Houbolt Road, and a new interchange at Interstate 80 — has been estimated to cost in the range of $200 million.

I’t s a public-private venture in which Houbolt Road Extension Joint Venture will build and be responsible for the bridge, which will be owned by the city of Joliet. The state will widen Houbolt Road and build a divergent diamond interchange at I-80.

The bridge is envisioned as a key element in relieving truck congestion on local roads and highways by providing a direct connection between the CenterPoint Intermodal Center industrial parks south of the Des Plaines River to I-80 north of the river.

The project was first announced by former Gov. Bruce Rauner at a news conference in Joliet in 2016. At that time Rauner estimated construction would start in 2017 with the bridge opening by early 2019.

It had been proposed earlier than that locally and was already under discussion when Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk was first elected in 2015 and made it one of his top priorities.

O’Dekirk on Tuesday said the bridge will not be the final solution for truck congestion related to the areas growing logistics industry but described it as “the first real step forward.”

“I think it’s going to make a big difference with the trucks on the local roads,” O’Dekirk said.

Legal complications involving the BNSF Railway, which has a railroad that lies underneath the future bridge, and a change in plans that led to the city of Joliet becoming the owner of the bridge, stretched out the expected construction start date for years.

But Murphy said last year that construction could start by March after a lease agreement between the city and the joint venture was reached.

The lease spells out terms by which Joliet will own the bridge while it is owned and maintained by Houbolt Road Extension Joint Venture, which also assumes liability for the structure.

“Now finally, finally everybody can say there will be a bridge,” said Michael Hansen, a Joliet attorney who represented CenterPoint in the lease agreement.

The U.S. Coast Guard last week issued a permit needed to cross the Des Plaines River. On Monday, the city of Joliet closed on a land transfer with Houbolt Road Extension Joint Venture that was needed to wrap up the lease agreement between the two parties.

“The closing couldn’t happen until we got literally a hundred things done,” Hansen said. “Everything was a domino effect and had to be done in order.”

In just the the last several weeks, an easement from BNSF Railway was obtained and the Illinois Commerce Commission gave an approval needed before construction could start.

“It is exciting,” Murphy said of the imminent construction work. “It’s been a long slough. We had a lot of help politically. The city of Joliet has been great. The county and the state have been great. But there was a lot of bureaucracy to get through.”

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News