Opponents to NorthPoint Development’s plan for a Joliet logistics park said the developer has urged state officials to resurrect a scaled-down version of the Illiana Expressway to gain a route to another intermodal 30 miles away.
Stop NorthPoint issued a news release citing emails among officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation discussing NorthPoint’s interest in what one referred to as “Illiana Light” to connect its logistics park with a proposed CSX intermodal in Crete.
“This demonstrates that NorthPoint is not sincere in their statements that they’re going to solve our local traffic problems,” John Kieken, a leader in the Stop NorthPoint group, said Thursday.
Kieken said the proposed expressway would have the potential to spread “traffic and everything that the warehousing industry would bring with it” along the 30-mile route through the eastern Will County.
The Stop NorthPoint revelation about “Illiana Light” comes on top of CenterPoint Properties’ concerns made public this week about the impact of the NorthPoint’s proposed Compass Global Logistics Hub and its potential to get bigger in the future.
The Joliet City Council is scheduled to vote Dec. 21 on a new NorthPoint annexation plan that adds more than 1,000 acres to what the council approved a year ago. NorthPoint now plans to develop 2,300 acres for warehouses stretching from Joliet to Elwood.
Stop NorthPoint obtained two emails, one from July 5, 2018, and the other from June 19, 2020, through requests under the Freedom of Information Act to IDOT.
An email from IDOT Chief Council Philip Kaufman on June 19, 2020, refers to “the original NorthPoint proposal of the ‘Illiana Light’” running from Interstate 55 to Route 394.
The Illiana Expressway, a plan that IDOT has been shelved, was conceived as a highway running from I-55 into Indiana with the purpose of providing an alternative route for semitrailers and relieving congestion on Interstate 80. The plan faced opposition from farmers and residents along the proposed route.
The proposed “Illiana Light” route would have kept the expressway inside of Illinois.
A July 5, 2018 email from IDOT Deputy Secretary Justin Sydello refers to a NorthPoint proposal for “improvements to extend access between their proposed site and a proposed CSX intermodal facility in Crete.”
Sydello described the route as “very similar in alignment to the Illiana Expressway” and wrote that it “would require significant reconstruction to accommodate high volumes of truck traffic for this 30-mile east-west connector.”
He wrote that IDOT was devoting its resources to improving I-80 and I-55 and had informed NorthPoint that the state “would not further explore this east-west connector proposal at this time.”
At the time, NorthPoint’s original plan to annex to the village of Elwood had been rejected three months earlier after intense opposition from residents in Elwood and Manhattan. NorthPoint in early 2020 brought its project to the city of Joliet, where it has continued to face opposition from some of the same residents.
NorthPoint’s major selling point is that it would create a closed-loop road network that would reduce the number of trucks on local roads by keeping them by providing direct access to the intermodal yards in the CenterPoint Intermodal Center.
CenterPoint Properties has objected to the project, saying more information is needed on its potential impact on roads in the CenterPoint Intermodal Center. CenterPoint pointed to 1,200 acres additional acres outside Manhattan that NorthPoint has acquired and could add to the warehouse park in the future.