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Local News

New plans for Interstate 55 near Joliet save 'the fen'

Proposed routes shown at IDOT open house

Several people pour over maps Wednesday during a forum at Joliet Junior College about the interchange at Interstates 80 and 55.
Several people pour over maps Wednesday during a forum at Joliet Junior College about the interchange at Interstates 80 and 55.

JOLIET – The latest plans for future Interstate 55 improvements save the fen but bring one of the feeder roads closer to some people’s homes.

Plans for an improved I-55 interchange at Route 59 and other road improvements leading to the interstate were presented last week during an open house at Joliet Junior College.

The improvements would accommodate Cullinan Properties’ plans for the Rock Run Crossings development at I-55 and Interstate 80. An improved Route 59 interchange would provide I-55 access to Rock Run Crossings, which would include a mall, offices, hotels and other amenities if developed as planned.

No funding is available yet for any of the construction planned by the Illinois Department of Transportation and city of Joliet.

But the prospect of one of the new roads cutting through a wetland area near Joliet Junior College referred to as “the fen” was a concern among environmental advocates who wanted the route changed.

The latest plans show that route now bypassing the fen, as County Farm Road would be connected with McDonough Street to create access to the future Rock Run Crossings from Houbolt Road.

Andy Neill, a JJC professor who was among the leaders in the effort to protect the fen, said he is satisfied with the new plans for the area being studied.

“With this [route], at least the few remaining natural areas in the study area will remain unaffected,” Neill said.

Advocates for the fen area were among those serving on a Community Advisory Group that has helped shape the I-55 plans.

Not everyone is pleased with the new plan for County Farm Road.

Fred Butalla is among about 20 homeowners who live in what now is an isolated area in unincorporated Troy Township but would be the east edge of Rock Run Crossings. The redrawn route for County Farm Road also brings the connector route close to Butalla’s front door.

“I’m only three houses down,” Butalla said as he looked over a map at the I-55 meeting. “Right now, it’s quiet, no cars. You go from that to something where it’s like being next to Jefferson Street.”

Jefferson Street, too, is eyed for possible changes, according to the plans.

Steve Schilke, IDOT project manager for the I-55 plans, said Jefferson Street could be widened in Shorewood to four lanes west of Route 59.

The intersection at Route 59 also could be improved to relieve congestion at the Jefferson Street interchange with I-55, Schilke said.

The plan includes a second east-west route from Rock Run Crossings to Houbolt Road. Olympic Boulevard, which now intersects with Houbolt, would be extended to the Rock Run area.

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