Chicago Street may open up
By Bob Okon email@example.com April 16, 2012 9:34PM
Updated: May 18, 2012 9:57AM
JOLIET — Plans for a new transit center could mean opening up Chicago Street, the city’s main street downtown that has been cut into two sections for decades by the county court complex.
Joliet officials for years have talked about a desire to open up Chicago Street, but the job never has been done. Now, Pace buses may force the issue.
“Before it was in a future plan,” James Haller, the city’s director of community and economic development, said. Haller told the Joliet City Council at its Monday meeting that Pace wants Chicago Street opened up as part of the new layout for public transportation that will be created when the transit center is built.
Pace wants Chicago Street opened up, Haller said, because the transit center will include a central bus boarding area south of the courthouse, which would block the buses from downtown. The central boarding area now is on the north side of the courthouse where Chicago Street is blocked off. Opening up Chicago Street will give Pace buses quicker access downtown and beyond.
Just when that might happen is not clear. City and county officials are negotiating for the property. Chicago Street would run through what is now a county parking lot, and the city would have to provide parking options.
“It’s always been a dream of the city to open up Chicago Street to have a gateway downtown from Interstate 80,” said Councilman John Gerl, who added it has been a topic of discussion going back to the 1990s. “I know the county is receptive to it. But it will cut right through their parking lot and they’ll need some accommodation.”
Gerl said the opening of Chicago Streets “seems to be getting some traction” with the downtown transit project.
The possibility signals one of the ways the $42 million project may change downtown Joliet along with ways people get access to public transportation.
The transit facility is called a MultiModal Transportation Center because it’s being designed to put assorted forms of transportation — trains, buses, taxi cabs and even bicycles — in one place.
The city also has been buying property in the vicinity to create more parking space. A private developer has proposed building a parking deck next to the transit center that could serve both commuters and Silver Cross Field for Slammers games. And the city plans to convert the old Union Station to other uses once a new train depot is opened nearby.
City Manager Thomas Thanas said the project is a complex one because of the many involved interests. A planning meeting on the project this week will bring about 50 people, he said.
One of the first buildings to go up will be what is being called a “bus portal,” which will be the boarding area for Pace. Thanas said that should be done in 2013.
Thanas said he was reluctant to give target dates because of the complexity of the project, which includes realignments of railroad tracks.
“We are working very hard to make sure we have vertical construction in 2013,” he said.