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Once again, it seems that the Illinois Department of Transportation, or IDOT, needs one more "I" in its name. Because this is utterly ridiculous.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is requiring that Bronk's Corners not only widen the portion of Illinois 59 that runs past the shopping center, but also widen lanes on the other side of the intersection up to the entrance to the Wal-Mart development to the south.

"IDOT did not require Wal-Mart to make a lot of the improvements on Route 59 that we're now required to carry the burden on," said Gary Davidson, an attorney representing the development group, which is headed by Ardmin Properties out of Woodridge.

Davidson added that it would be "incredibly difficult" for the developer to move forward with Bronk's Corners while taking on all the costs of road widening and infrastructure improvements.

A quick recap: Illinois Route 59 is an older highway that runs through the far west side of Joliet, an area which has had explosive growth in residential development during the past ten years. Route 59 is rapidly becoming a major commercial strip, with all the usual big box retailers - Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Staples, etc. For the most part the road is still only two lanes, as the state has dragged its heels on widening it. As a result, traffic congestion in the area is quite bad (a factor which, incidentally, contributed to our moving away from the area three years ago).

This new retail development, Bronk's Corners, is to be built at the northwest corner of Route 59 and Theodore Street. Wal-Mart built a new store a few years ago on the southwest corner but, despite the huge upsurge in traffic that Wal-Mart drew, the company wasn't required to pay for critically needed infrastructure improvements for the intersection. Now, the Bronk's Corners "lifestyle center" development, which was supposed to open this fall but hasn't even broken ground, is being required by IDOT to pay for the widening of the intersection entirely on its own.

Wal-Mart, which undoubtedly draws more traffic than the lifestyle center will, stands to benefit from the improved traffic flow without having to pay a dime for it. Meanwhile, the local developer of Bronk's Corners is expected to foot the bill, effectively subsidizing both Wal-Mart and the retail center on the opposite corner. (The fourth corner is currently vacant, but is undoubtedly being eyed for some sort of new development, as raw land on this attractive strech of Route 59 is now all but non-existent.) Never mind that the road should have been widened five years ago, before Bronk's Corners was even on the drawing board. Now, when the state finally gets around to widening the road, they're giving Wal-Mart a free pass and instead leaning on the Bronk's Corners developers as a condition for getting the project completed. And it sounds like the City of Joliet is just meekly going along with IDOT's questionable decision.

I know that state and local governments bend over backwards for new Wal-Marts, regardless of whether those stores are good for the community or not, but this is going much too far. Why isn't Wal-Mart being required to pay its fair share of these infrastructure costs? Am I completely missing something here? Does this seem at all fair?

October 2, 2007 in Joliet | Permalink