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CED to form council to advise on intermodal traffic issues

Karen Sorensen | 9/11/2014, 11:32 p.m.
The group's task will be to take the helm when it comes to securing money, watching trends and finding solutions ...
Hundreds of trucks go in to and out of Centerpoint Intermodal every day to pick up box cars delivered by freight trains from the West Coast and either transport to other states or drop them off at local warehouse/distribution centers. Will County Center for Economic Development

Will County’s role as home to the country’s largest inland port means local officials must take the helm when it comes to securing money, watching trends and finding solutions to problems as the burgeoning industry grows, the president of the Will County Center for Economic Development said.

To that end, John Greuling said he will announce details for a new Will County Freight Advisory Council next week at the CED’s 8th Annual Global Logistic Summit, which is being held Sept. 16 at the Bolingbrook Country Club.

The council will mirror similar boards already created at the state and federal levels, and will serve as the group that brings local needs to the attention of state and federal officials when it comes to maintaining and expanding the intermodal centers and the freight corridor that runs through Will County, Greuling said.

Centerpoint Intermodal, a 6,000-acre site off Route 53 that’s home to BNSF Logistics Park in Elwood and Union Pacific Global in Joliet, is the main hub of the local inland port industry. The newly created RidgePort Logistics Center is just three miles away in Wilmington. Most truck traffic accesses the site via Arsenal Road at Interstate 55.

In the simplest terms, the port allows freight trains to bring in goods from the West Coast via box cars that are moved by cranes to flat-bed trucks and either transported to other parts of the country or to local warehouses and distribution centers. The warehouse/distribution center growth in Will County, especially in towns such as Romeoville, Bolingbrook, New Lenox and others along interstates 55 and 80, has boomed as a result of the freight traffic.

But with that has come problems with increased truck traffic, which puts pressure on local roads and interstates. The situation came to a head in Elwood earlier this year when the village attempted to restrict traffic using Route 53 to get to Centerpoint, prompting Centerpoint to sue the municipality in federal court. The village was forced to back off.

The concept of creating a freight advisory council was not prompted by that situation, but it’s a good example of the kind of issue the group can help resolve before lawsuits are filed and animosity builds between municipalities and business owners.

“If we’re going to be the source, we’ve got to make some adjustments in how we invest in infrastructure and use infrastructure,” Greuling said. “We’re never going to have enough money to fix (all of the road problems), so the use of technology is also key.”

But it’s clear some new roads will be essential, such as the proposed Illiana Expressway, which will link Interstate 55 near Wilmington with Interstate 65 in Indiana, he said. Local officials, including Will County Executive Larry Walsh, are also pushing for a truck toll road at Houbolt Road and Interstate 80 as another way for truck traffic to access the intermodal site.

The advisory council members have not been announced, but will primarily consist of private sector representatives from the railroads, truck companies, logistics firms and retailers using the warehouse and distribution centers, Greuling said.

Contact Karen Sorensen at Karen@TheTimesWeekly.com.