Standing at Union Station this afternoon, Gov. Pat Quinn announced a $32 million grant for a multi-modal facility that would help make downtown Joliet a transportation hub.
The grant will allow for the construction of a new facility, immediately south of the existing Union Station, which serves as a hub for everything from high speed rail to local bus service.
“We can get all these folks under one location,” said Jim Haller, Joliet’s director for community and economic development. “You can walk downtown and take a bus to an airport or take the train to downtown Chicago and points beyond. It really does open up Joliet to make it more accessible to the world.”
The $41.7 million project will be funded through the state grant, another $7.5 million from Joliet, and $2.2 million from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The new facility is expected to create 650 construction jobs.
“This project will revitalize downtown Joliet and improve safety for the 800,000 passengers who use the city’s Union Station every year,” Quinn said in a prepared statement.
Last year, Joliet officials submitted a grant request for federal funds to build the new facility, but the project was not selected. Last week, the city’s efforts to secure federal funding for the project also met the same fate.
Haller said it had appeared the city would need to secure smaller grants through various agencies to make the project a reality – a process that would have taken 10 years or more, Haller said. The state grant will make the project a reality within two years.
“This is what happens when economic development, business and government work together to get things done,” Will County Executive Larry Walsh said. “I am proud of what this will do for the county seat of Will County.”
Haller said the city will begin working on drawing up plans for the project, which includes a new platform for train passengers, a turnaround for bus traffic and a new building to house a waiting and ticketing area for the various transportation services.
Quinn and Joliet officials touted the project as a boom for the downtown district pointing to the number of jobs it would create and the businesses a new transportation facility would draw.
While Quinn’s announcement – which also drew Congresswoman Debbie Halverson and Illinois State Senator AJ Wilhelmi – comes just days before the Nov. 2 election, city officials noted they first began talking about the project two years ago and have been working to secure funding for the project.
“The need was identified a long time ago and the desire on the part of the state to try to help us was identified a long time ago,” Haller said.
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