Judge rules for NorthPoint on Elwood bridge

Decision opens the way for state ruling on bridge over Route 53

A Will County judge on Tuesday issued a ruling that could pave the way for NorthPoint Development to build the bridge it wants for the future Compass Global Logistics Hub.

Judge Theodore Jarz ruled that Elwood is obligated by a 2007 agreement to file documents needed to pursue state approval for a bridge over Route 53 at Walter Strawn Road.

The village of Elwood has tried to block both the bridge and the industrial park that NorthPoint wants to build.

The 1,360-acre development would be annexed to Joliet but would stretch to the Elwood border. The Joliet annexation agreement requires NorthPoint to build a bridge over Route 53 as part of a closed-loop plan to keep trucks off the highway before the Compass Global Logistics Hub could be built.

NorthPoint wants to build the bridge at Walter Strawn Road but has been impeded by Elwood. The village owns the road and would have to file supporting documents for NorthPoint to make its case for the bridge before the Illinois Commerce Commission.

The developer argued that Elwood was obligated by the 2007 agreement made with CenterPoint Properties, previously owner of land now in possession of NorthPoint, to extend Walter Strawn Road east across Route 53 and expand access to the CenterPoint Intermodal Center.

Elwood argued in court that the agreement was made solely for a traditional intersection and never contemplated a bridge. The village argued that NorthPoint was seeking a court ruling that would force NorthPoint to go beyond the village’s intent in the agreement.

But access to Walter Strawn Road since 2007 has been blocked by an ICC ruling sought by Elwood because of hazards at the railroad crossing just west of Route 53. Walter Strawn Road is barricaded at the crossing.

Jarz in his ruling said that intersection improvements do not exclude bridges or other elevated crossings, which he noted were not specifically excluded in the 2007 agreement.

“While it is certainly common that roadways have their intersection at the same grade level, many intersect by means of bridges, cloverleafs, traffic circles or viaducts at separated grade levels,” Jarz wrote.

Jarz said Elwood remained obligated to provide access to Walter Strawn Road east of Route 53 once the road was blocked at the railroad crossing.

“There is no language in the agreement that bars further proposals for connecting the roads if one proposal fails,” the judge wrote.

Jarz said Elwood’s arguments that a bridge for the NorthPoint development would create safety issues for the village was a matter to be decided by the Illinois Commerce Commission and Illinois Department of Transportation.

An attorney for Elwood could not be immediately reached for comment on whether the village will file documents with the state commission or appeal Jarz’s ruling.

The village’s efforts to block the bridge have drawn widespread attention as NorthPoint sought to bypass Elwood in a campaign to persuade Gov. JB Pritzker to pursue a state takeover of Walter Strawn Road, which the governor has refused to do.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News