Quinn joins in breaking ground on Joliet transportation hub
By Janet Lundquist email@example.com September 21, 2012 1:57PM
Updated: October 24, 2012 6:36AM
JOLIET — Two years from now, the property south and east of the Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet will likely look vastly different.
Work to transform the area into a transportation hub officially began Friday, with ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt tossed by local and state officials.
Gov. Pat Quinn was the guest of honor, and stood alongside Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante, Will County Executive Larry Walsh, state Sen. Pat McGuire and a crowd of other movers and shakers.
“This is an important day for Illinois, and a real important day for the people of Joliet,” Quinn said.
In two years, the city would like to cut the ribbon on a new, $40 million multimodal transportation center. It will include a new, two-story train station for Metra and Amtrak commuters as well as new rail platforms.
The platforms will separate passenger lines from freight lines. Pedestrian tunnels will connect to a bus station.
The city of Joliet is starting with the first phase of the project, a 400-space parking lot.
Quinn pointed out the beauty and history of Union Station, and how the project will blend the past with the future.
The entire development, which will include the existing Union Station, will be tied together by design and cover six city blocks.
Extended train boarding areas will stretch as far as Van Buren Street for the Metra Heritage Corridor Line and Eastern Avenue for the Metra Rock Island Line. The new train station will be built across the tracks to the east of Union Station.
The bus station will be south of Union Station with a turnaround drive extended to Marion Street. A section of New Street would be eliminated to create a pedestrian plaza in front of the bus station.
Two other plazas would be created along Jefferson Street on the north end of Union Station and on the north end of new train station.
A state Illinois Jobs Now! grant will pay for $37 million of the work, while the city will contribute $7.5 million gleaned from the 2008 annexation agreement with CenterPoint Properties. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway will contribute $2.2 million.
The project has a triple benefit, McGuire said before taking his place on the stage behind the governor.
It will provide jobs, and, once finished, a convenient way for people to get to their jobs. It will also make it easier to get to Joliet, which could boost tourism.
“If it’s good for Joliet, it’s good for Will County,” Walsh said, while he waited for the governor to arrive for the ground-breaking ceremony.
Each official that spoke during the ceremony also mentioned one of the best features of the project — the jobs it will create, both during and after construction ends in 2014.
“This is what it’s all about. Economic growth based on location also depends on transportation,” Quinn said. “The best way to get good jobs, especially jobs you can support a family on, is to invest in transportation.”
At one point during his speech, Quinn raised his voice slightly. He wanted a crowd of protesters chanting a short distance away to hear what he was saying.
“There are some people, frankly, who want to keep things ... the way they are,” he said. “Sometimes we have to tell the people what they need to know. We have to reform our pension system.”
The protesters hoisted signs printed with “Pensions are a promise” and “Respect Illinois Unions” while chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Quinn’s cuts have got to go.” Some wore shirts that read, “Save IYC Joliet.”
Quinn, who plans to close the Joliet youth detention center and a youth detention center in Murphysboro by Dec. 31, said consolidating the state’s facilities would save taxpayer money.
“We have to understand that we have a governor who believes in ethics and integrity and believes in jobs,” he continued. “This governor believes that we should do the right thing for Illinois all the time.”
By the time officials finished shoveling from the ceremonial dirt pile, the protest had broken up.