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August 26, 2015 3:30 PM, EDT

Plagued by Permits, Truckers Find Route to Illinois Intermodal Center Long and Costly

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Prairie Creek Logistics, a 35-truck agricultural hauler located in tiny Village of Elwood, Illinois, has a thriving business moving farm goods to and from the massive CenterPoint Intermodal Center a few miles down the road from its company headquarters.

But in recent months the trip has not only gotten longer, it’s become a lot more expensive.

In January, state officials closed down access to a road that increased the trip from the company’s headquarters to the intermodal center from 4 miles to 21.

That closure, in turn, also meant that overweight trucks traveling to the facility would require Prairie Creek and many other truckers moving goods mostly to and from nearby Chicago to purchase costly overweight permits from not only the state of Illinois, but also from Will County and Elwood.

“For me, it’s been one of the most detrimental things we’ve ever had to face,” Prairie Creek Chief Operating Officer David Schultz said.

Indeed, Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association, said the difficult and expensive trips to one of the nation’s largest intermodal facilities has become a thorn in the side of many truckers who service the center.

“We don’t feel like we’re getting fair treatment from an economic standpoint,” Hart told Transport Topics. “We certainly would like to see a one-stop shop for the permits.”

With the closing of a railroad crossing on Walter Strawn Drive, overweight trucks coming down Interstate 55 from Chicago to the intermodal center must purchase a $1,000 annual permit from the state for using the interstate, a $500 monthly permit per truck from Will County to use a 3-mile stretch of road and a $588 monthly permit to travel a mile or two on a road through Elwood.

Although there are no public statistics on the number of overweight trucks that service the center, the Village of Elwood said on average there are 12,000 vehicles per day — 8,000 of them trucks — that travel the roadways leading to the CenterPoint BNSF Railroad intermodal facilities in Elwood and the Union Pacific facility in nearby Joliet.

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In addition, there are about 1,800 trucks that approach from east of the center via state Route 53.

The situation has become so dicey that last month the state made a move to seek jurisdiction of the stretch of road currently controlled by Will County.

Still in negotiations, the state is hoping to take control of Arsenal Road between Interstate 55 and Baseline Road. That would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to make permanent upgrades to accommodate heavy-truck traffic in and out of the area’s intermodal facilities.

It also would likely eliminate the extra $500 a month for the Will County overweight truck permits.

But so far, Hart said Village of Elwood officials have no plans to allow the state to take control of the final mile leading into the intermodal center, and the state by law has no right to force a takeover of the stretch.

Village President William Offerman did not return a phone call seeking comment.