The fate of a massive industrial park planned in Joliet that could employ as many as 10,000 people rests largely in the hands of the governor, who has the final say over a proposed bridge spanning Route 53 that’s essential to the development. It may be just a bridge, but it represents the hopes of pro-growth government officials and the fears of local residents fed up with heavy truck traffic originating from a pair of gigantic rail yards nearby. And the outcome of the standoff could be a turning point for a region that’s become one of the nation’s largest logistics hubs and, as a consequence, a key pillar of Illinois’ economy.
The bridge would connect the two intermodal terminals on the west side of Route 53 with the Compass Global Logistics Hub, a $1.9 billion warehouse project that Kansas City, Mo.-based NorthPoint Development plans to the east. It’s the linchpin: Without the bridge, the project doesn’t work.
Pritzker is caught in the middle. The proposal cleared a key hurdle in December, when the Joliet City Council approved it. But NorthPoint can’t move forward unless Pritzker allows the Illinois Department of Transportation to take over a key road from the village of Elwood.
The thoroughfare, Walter Strawn Road, would include the proposed bridge over Route 53. NorthPoint would cover the $20 million it would cost to construct the bridge. But it can’t build it right now because Elwood is adamantly opposed to Compass and is fighting the project in court.
It ain’t as simple as the story makes it out to be. Here’s Jordan Abudayyeh…
As Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell explained, the issue is not simply about this administration approving construction for a bridge. The Northpoint development is a complicated transaction that would require sign off from multiple municipalities, the people who live in these communities and their representatives in General Assembly. Gov. Pritzker prioritizes economic development in every region of this state and the administration would encourage the corporation to engage local municipalities and persuade them this is in the best interest of the people they serve, before asking the state to seize land from communities who have not been persuaded.
Local state legislators are opposed for numerous reasons, partly because the duly elected officials in Elwood are opposed. Also, the region is packed with these facilities and they don’t pay their workers very well.
* We’ve discussed this before…
But this corporate valhalla turned out to be hell for the community, which suffered a concentrated dose of the indignities and disappointments of late capitalism in the 21st century. Instead of abundant full-time work, a regime of partial, precarious employment set in. Temp agencies flourished, but no restaurants, hotels, or grocery stores ever came, save for the recent addition of a dollar store. Tens of thousands of semis rumbled through Will County every day, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure. And as the town of Elwood scrambled to pave its potholes, its inability to collect taxes from the facilities plunged it into more than $30 million in debt.
If they have the money to invest in all that infrastructure, perhaps they should also pay and treat their workers better and allow for union representation. That would make it extremely difficult for Democratic legislators to oppose the plan. As it stands now, Elwood gets nothing except more problems.
…Adding… NorthPoint response…
Here are some details in response to your post on Compass Global Logistics Hub:
• The City of Joliet has already approved the annexation agreement, which has paved the way for the $2 billion investment. No action is legally required from any other municipality.
• The only thing required to begin construction is for IDOT to assume responsibility in taking over a 1.5 mile stretch of existing industrial road, part of which the state already controls.
• The bridge, which NorthPoint would cover the cos of building, is something the developer agreed to as a result of community-based solution to keep trucks off local roads.
• Without Compass, traffic problems will continue to persist. The growth of the BNSF and UP intermodals are the result of the increased popularity of the online shopping. That will bring more truck traffic – with or without Compass.
• Without Compass’ long-term planning solution, haphazard growth will continue with one-off warehouses and increased traffic problems on local roads.
• As the article states, the average salary of a worker at Compass would amount to $42,000 – higher than minimum wage even for the lowest paid jobs there.
• NorthPoint is not asking for any state incentives or TIFs and would bring 10,000+ permanent jobs to the Southland families and millions of revenue to the State during an economic downturn and a growing budget deficit.
• NothPoint and local unions have negotiated a PLA agreement, considered a model for future development that continues well after the construction of the buildings is complete.
• The Governor’s recent statement about issues with the One Central project is a mirror opposite of the NorthPoint’s approach: they want subsidies (NorthPoint doesn’t), they didn’t demonstrate need (NorthPoint did), they don’t have city approval for project (NorthPoint does).
• NorthPoint has a proven track record in Illinois: 1) a new $164 million light manufacturing facility at the site of the abandoned Republic Steel site on Chicago’s Southeast Side; and 2) a $312 million logistics center in Pontoon Beach.