Over the last 50 years the need for another river crossing has been evaluated by various agencies. The following is a summary of those efforts that preceded the start of the Caton Farm – Bruce Road Phase I Study:
The Fox Valley Freeway study by IDOT identified a major river crossing as “143rd Street Freeway”, crossing the DesPlaines River valley in the vicinity of 143rd Street. This study was terminated without addressing how the future traffic be accommodated.
Federal Transportation Bill required that population centers with populations greater than 50,000 to have a 20-year Plan for future transportation development:
Joliet Area Transportation Study was formed with representation from all municipalities and Will County. Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) was the lead agency; a consulting engineering firm was hired to prepare the 20-year Plan.
After 4 years of studies and coordination, the “1985 Plan for Will County” recommended among many other recommendations: A Caton Farm Road/Bruce Road connection and a high-level bridge with a north/south connection to Illinois Route 7 via Cedar Road, as a Major Roadway.
Illinois Route 7 High-Level Bridge was constructed by IDOT and opened to traffic.
The Division Street Bridge was damaged by a barge and subsequently closed to through traffic.
Lockport Township Feasibility Study and Report for a High Level Vehicular Bridge Over the Des Plaines River and Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in Lockport Township recommended a high-level bridge and continuity of roadway network to Illinois Route 7.
The State passed an increase in the gas tax. As part of this gas tax increase, IDOT initiated the Strategic Regional Arterial (SRA) studies as part of the “Operation Green Light initiative”. SRA System Overview indicated that, in the future (a 20 year time horizon) road travel in Northeastern Illinois will be 20 percent heavier than 1990 levels. That estimate of projected traffic developed by the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS) was significant to the point that IDOT directed it’s planning to address the need to meet future transportation requirements in the year 2010.
Lockport Township prepared Feasibility study for a high level vehicular bridge over the Des Plaines River Valley at Caton Farm Road /Bruce Road. This study concluded and recommended that the bridge was feasible, and also recommended the formation of a multi–agency task force to coordinate the regional transportation studies which involve the bridge and other transportation issues in the area.
IDOT re-initiated the study of the Fox Valley Expressway. Their east-west corridor in this area was along the Caton Farm Road/Bruce Road alignment. After a few years into the study IDOT dropped the Fox Valley Expressway. Instead they proposed extensive arterial improvements along existing roadways and/or SRA roadways.
135th Street Bridge was closed to traffic due to the structural deficiencies. The traffic was diverted mostly to Illinois Route 7 and to Lemont Road; the traffic congestion on Illinois Route 7 during the 135th Street Bridge closure was extreme. For the next several years while the 135th Street Bridge was closed to traffic, the Local Agencies concentrated their efforts on reopening and funding of 135th Street Roadway/Bridge instead of addressing the Caton Farm Road/Bruce Roadway/Bridge need.
IDOT initiated their Strategic Regional Arterial study for the U.S. Route 6/IL Route 7 corridor. This corridor originally extended from IL Route 59 in Will County east along portions of Renwick Road, IL Route 7, and U.S. Route 6 to IL Route 83 in Calumet City, IL. (See attached map) The length of this corridor is about 38 miles long.
IDOT held a coordination meeting with Will County, Homer Township, and Lockport to introduce the SRA process. During this study Homer Township requested a 300-foot right-of-way to accommodate a major road from Farrell Road to Will/Cook County line. THE SRA study investigated both the IL Route 7/Renwick Road and Bruce Road/Caton Farm Road alignments with various connections along Cedar Road, Wolf Road, and U.S. Route 45.
IDOT completes the final SRA report which recommended the Caton Farm Road/Bruce Road corridor. The report also recommended a connection from Bruce Road to IL Route 7 via Cedar Road.
IDOT initiates a study for adding additional lanes to Illinois Route 7 from the proposed I-355 interchange east to Illinois Route 7/US Route 6 intersection.
The Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS) published its 2020 SRA map; the Caton Farm/Bruce Road/Cedar Road Illinois Route 7 SRA is indicated on that map.
135th Street Bridge was opened to through traffic. In 1999 the 135th Street Bridge carried 13,500 vehicles per day. The 135th Street project cost over $25 million.
Will County Land Use Department initiated a study to develop the “Will County 2020 Transportation Plan”. Seven workshops were held throughout Will County to explain the proposed 2020 Transportation Plans. Over 20 other meetings with elected officials and the publics were held to explain the 2020 transportation Plan and receive input. In all of the above meetings the Transportation Plan was recommending a major arterial roadway along the Caton Farm/Bruce/Cedar/Illinois Route 7 alignment.
With the 135th Street Bridge opened to traffic, a committee was established to initiate a study for Caton Farm Road/Bruce Road/Cedar Road/Illinois 7. The membership of the committee include the following: Plainfield Township, Lockport Township, Homer Township, City of Joliet, Crest Hill, Lockport and Will County. The committee members elected Will County, as the Lead Agency for the study, because the Caton Farm Road/Bruce Road/Cedar Road/ Illinois 7 roadway would be a regional roadway.The Will County Department of Highways was assigned the task of implementing the study. During 1999 and 2000 the committee meets with various Federal, State and Local officials to gain funding for the study and establish the parameters of the study. Since funding of this bridge/roadways is beyond the resources of Will County and other committee members, the committee is informed that in order to be eligible for future Federal and State funding it must follow very specific guidelines in the limits and scope of the project.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and IDOT established the Study Limits and scope of the study. The consultant selection also proceeded.
With Resolution #00-481, Will County Board approved and adopted the 2020 Transportation Plan, as a guideline for the future Will County Highway improvements. The plan recommended construction of a major arterial roadway along the Caton Farm/Bruce/Cedar/Illinois Route 7 alignment.
Village of Homer Glen was incorporated as a “Village”.
Three consulting firms were authorized to initiate the Caton-Farm Bruce Road Phase I Study. It was estimated that the study would take about three years to complete.
Villages of Homer Glen and New Lenox were added to the committee, since they will be impacted by the Caton Farm/Bruce Road Project.