Houbolt Toll Bridge Open for Business

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By Nick Reiher

An hour or so after Joliet and county officials cut the ribbon on the long-awaited Houbolt Road Bridge, the first trucks passed over from the south toward the intersection at U.S. 6.

That was about a half hour after the official opening a little after 10 a.m. April 27, when Joliet police and city workers removed the barriers to the nearly half-mile bridge over the DesPlaines River, leading south into the CenterPoint Intermodal yards.

The $140 million bridge was a joint venture between CenterPoint and United Bridge Partners. To help recoup their investment, the bridge has a tollbooth where drivers of trucks will pay $8 per trip, and drivers of cars will pay $2 with I-PASS.

In his brief remarks, outgoing Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk noted the project was not his idea. But he and the late County Executive Larry Walsh got the ball rolling.

Following one meeting at the Joliet Chamber offices, some 10 years ago, CenterPoint officials could be heard bending the ear of U.S. Sen Dick Durbin about a proposed public-private partnership for the bridge.

Work on the bridge began in earnest in spring 2021. At a groundbreaking event that July, Michael Murphy, CenterPoint’s Chief Development Officer, told those gathered that Joliet’s Union Pacific Intermodal Yard, opened in 2010, was such a success, i.e., handling a lot of truck traffic, that the newly opened Arsenal Road interchange on I-55 couldn’t handle it all.

While CenterPoint and United Bridge Partners handled the bridge, the City of Joliet, working with the Illinois Department of Transportation, were busy with securing land for the widened road that would lead from Interstate 80 south past U.S. 6 toward the bridge.

That route is open, but those who want to use it to get to the bridge and the intermodal yards will for now have to zig-zag around some barriers, as work continues on southbound Houbolt Road.

Ultimately, the state will put in a diverging diamond interchange at I-80 and Houbolt, similar to the one at Weber Road and I-55.

O’Dekirk noted official hope the new route in and out of the CenterPoint intermodal yards to the south of I-80 will alleviate truck traffic on Illinois 53/Chicago Street.

That interchange, which the state plans to replace in the next few years, still will see its share of truck traffic, however, as Joliet has warehouses around the Illinois 53 intersection with Laraway Road.

Also attending the ribbon-cutting was Channahon Mayor Missey Schumacher. She said she hopes to get permission from IDOT soon to widen the village’s portion of U.S. 6 west to I-55 since trucks likely will be coming off I-55 at U.S. 6 or through the village on that route.

“Whenever something happens on I-80, U.S. 6 is their detour,” she said.

The Houbolt Road Extension uses an all-electronic system that accepts toll payments through I-PASS, E-ZPass, and Pay by Plate.

The tolling gantry is located between the bridge and U.S. 6; toll rates are tiered based on vehicle class, which is determined by vehicle height, width, and length. For drivers paying with a transponder, the rate for Class 1/passenger/light vehicles is $2.; Class 2/medium vehicles are $4, and Class 3/large vehicles are $8. Pay-by-Plate rates include an additional $3.50 administrative fee for each crossing.

 

 

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