Will County will receive a $750,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation to create a comprehensive freight mobility study with a goal of making intermodal transportation safer and more efficient, officials said.
The grant was accepted Feb. 16 at the county board meeting.
The Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Study will identify what infrastructure is needed to improve the flow of freight traffic, support a growing freight economy, keep trucks off residential streets and allow commuters to get to and from jobs, while having minimal impact on the communities.
Beyond addressing congestion and road improvements, the study will discuss the need for coordinating land use planning and having a well-prepared workforce with easy access to jobs.
It also could consider how to segregate freight traffic from commuters and school zones, and minimize impacts on busy retail areas and residential areas.
The county has hired Ann Schnieder, former IDOT secretary, as project director.
The process will include public open houses, focus group discussions, interviews and surveys as they seek information from those who work in the trucking industry, as well as the public.
The plan will identify freight corridors and key freight infrastructure projects and prioritize improvements that are needed.
Once the study is complete, the county plans to seek federal funds through the Fixing America's Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act to finance infrastructure improvements.
The county has become the largest inland port in North America, with its two intermodal centers — the 6,400-acre CenterPoint Intermodal Center in Joliet and Elwood, and the 1,000 RidgePort Logistics Center in Wilmington — and its numerous warehouses, distribution centers and trucking firms, all of which create an "intense amount of freight," and have increased traffic congestion, officials said.
"This study will provide a regional and national perspective to the transportation network in will County," John Greuling, president of the Will County Center for Economic Development, said in a news release. "This is an important study to allow national and international businesses to thrive while protecting the quality of life for residents."