Plan for new CN intermodal facility welcomed in Joliet
By bob okon Sun-Times Media January 22, 2013 5:44PM
Artist's rendering of the CN Joliet Intermodal Service Center during a groundbreaking ceremony off Draper Ave. and Stein Ave. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:29AM
CN railway’s new intermodal yard to be built on the east side will mean the railroad has made a $40 million investment in its Joliet operations since it arrived in 2008, a company executive said Tuesday.
City officials and community leaders welcomed the intermodal facility at a frigid groundbreaking ceremony held less than a week after CN announced the project.
“This marks our latest partnership with the city of Joliet,” Keith Reardon, CN’s vice president for intermodal services, told the gathering. “Our partnership and our collaboration will only grow.”
CN would not put a value on the intermodal construction project, which is expected to be completed in June. But Reardon said the railroad has invested a total of $40 million on infrastructure in Joliet since CN acquired the old Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway in 2008.
Since that purchase, the company has added jobs at the Joliet yard, which now employs nearly 160 workers. Another 15 to 30 new jobs are expected at the intermodal facility.
CN also is funding a $2.9 million bypass road that will allow for the closing of the Woodruff Road crossing just east of the Joliet yard.
Reardon said CN plans to expand business with the Joliet intermodal yard.
But train traffic should not increase much, according to a company spokesman. He said one intermodal train would go into the Joliet yard and one would go out. And the intermodal train already passes through Joliet at times, the spokesman said.
CN and Joliet have had a cooperative relationship from the start. Joliet was the first town to come to an agreement with CN on how to offset the impact of the company’s increased rail traffic after acquiring the EJ&E.
“Joliet is ecstatic to have you here,” Mayor Thomas Giarrante said at Tuesday’s groundbreaking. “CN is a great company to work with.”
The relationship could be tested with the intermodal yard. CN expects 175 trucks a day to go through the facility, and the city does not want to see those trucks moving west into more residential areas and downtown.
Neither CN nor the city can keep trucks off of state and federal routes such as Route 6, which goes west into the downtown area. But officials with both the railroad and city said truckers will be encouraged to drive east toward Interstate 355 as a preferred route.
The city is having CN widen Draper Avenue from north of the future entrance to the intermodal yard to Route 6 to accommodate the truck traffic.
The CN project also marks more redevelopment in the vicinity of the old Silver Cross Hospital campus, which was vacated a year ago when the hospital moved to New Lenox. The old emergency center is being redeveloped for a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic. Aunt Martha’s Youth Services is building a medical clinic on the property, and Volunteers of America this month proposed the construction of apartment for homeless veterans.
“Who would have thought back in the day that all this would happen?” said Councilwoman Jan Quillman, reflecting on concerns that the hospital site would lie undeveloped.
Bettye Gavin, executive director of the Forest Park Community Center, which is in the neighborhood directly affected by the Woodruff Road bypass, said, “The CN collaboration is great for the Forest Park neighborhood.”