Illinois Town Fights Proposed Intermodal Terminal

Ken James/Bloomberg News

In Illinois, Crete Township residents tried to convince Will County officials not to support an overpass, fearing it would pave the way for a proposed intermodal facility that they oppose.

But they were told that a grade separation over the Union Pacific/CSX Railroad would not prevent the intermodal facility from being developed on a 1,000-acre site along those tracks.

And, even though residents who will be most impacted by this development live in unincorporated Will County, there is little the county can do for them, since the project is within the village of Crete, County Board Speaker Jim Moustis told the dozens of residents who came to his executive committee meeting Jan. 5.

CSX Transportation wants to build a $215 million intermodal facility on the same land that CenterPoint Intermodal Center wanted to develop about 10 years ago.

Then, as now, neighbors opposed the plan as not being well thought out, said County Board member Laurie Summers, (D-Crete). The plan is similar to one proposed before, but the overpass is new, she said.

"We cannot handle the truck traffic now. We do not have the infrastructure for that here," she said, adding that she visited CenterPoint's intermodal in Joliet and knows "how bad it is."

Both Crete-Monee and Goodenow roads are two-lane rural roads.

She held a meeting earlier this month to air residents' concerns and update them on the proposal.

"It needs to be a regional plan," Summers said.

CSX is seeking funds from the Illinois Commerce Commission to help pay for the $17 million overpass, but it needs a government agency to apply for them. CSX will provide the local match of 40% — or $6.8 million. No county funds will be used.

The committee agreed to have Will County be the sponsoring agency, but the matter will be voted on by the full board at a special meeting Jan. 12, given that the deadline to apply for this year's funds is Jan. 15.

According to Tom Livingston, CSX's regional vice president of government and community affairs, the crossing has an average of 3,550 vehicles and 60 school buses per day, with 41 trains. The proposed terminal will initially generate another six trains per day, he said.

The terminal will be 220 acres, with another 130 acres for future expansion. The remaining 700 acres could be for rail-served warehousing or other industrial uses, according to Livingston's documentation.

Regarding CSX's specific plans for the terminal, "We are still kicking the tires," he said.

"We have not designed it. Whatever we do, we will listen. We want to get it right," he said.

Even though opponents said the overpass would be a "precursor" to the intermodal, Livingston said, "One would not drive the other."

Several residents said the intermodal facility would destroy their property values and quality of life and that the diesel fuel would increase health problems and contaminate their private wells.

"Is CSX trying to kill us and our children?" asked Rachel Piepenbrink.

Bob Howard, a former Will County Board member from Beecher who was defeated by Summers in the November election, said the proposed intermodal facility is "literally right up against residents' homes," and a new overpass would require taking some of that property.

He cited a "lack of communication" with the village of Crete and called for new legislation that would require more regional notification to other government entities when such large-scale projects are being planned.

Others were concerned about the impact on Balmoral Elementary School, which sits 800 feet west of the tracks on the north side of Crete-Monee Road — the northern border of the proposed facility.

Jill Hornick suggested that they all "work together to find a plan where this can be built and not destroy people's lives."

Moustis told the crowd that county government is "very limited" and has no authority over municipalities, especially a home-rule community such as Crete.

Most of their issues are with the village of Crete, he said, urging residents to focus their attention on "where you can make a difference."

"Regardless of what happens, the grade separation is good for the community," Moustis said, adding that the chance of getting ICC funds for it is "slim."

Hornick said later that residents will continue to educate the surrounding community about the impacts of this intermodal facility and will keep speaking out about it "until the village acknowledges our valid concerns."