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Lt. Gov. Simon tours former Joliet Arsenal site 

May 13, 2011
By Mary Owen

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon stopped in southwest Will County on May 12 to tour developments on former Joliet Arsenal land, the burgeoning intermodal facilities and an Army Reserve training facility in Elwood.

Simon, who is the chair of a state committee created to advocate for the reuse and retention of the state’s military bases, told local officials that she has proposed that the state budget include a designated staffer to deal with base redevelopment.

Simon’s trip is part of a tour of military sites statewide. As part of her lieutenant governor duties, Simon will advocate on behalf of military bases during the U.S. Army’s regular Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), which occurs every four years.

Will County Executive Larry Walsh accompanied Simon on a short helicopter tour of the area, which includes hundreds of acres of warehouses, semi-trucks and stacked containers.

“When you get up there, it really is immense,” Solomon said after the helicopter trip. “You really get an appreciation for how there can be 5,000 employees working there."

Officials also announced that a $15 million project to build a maitenance and repair facility is also underway on 50 acres in the South Arsenal Logistics Center on former Joliet Arsenal land in Wilmington. The maintenance center will service freight containers and trucks from the BNSF Logistics Park and the Union Pacific Joliet Intermodal Terminal.

About 3,000 acres of the former Joliet Arsenal and ammunition plant has been divided among different entities for a variety of uses, including the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, the Medewin Tallgrass Prairie, a Will County landfill and portions of the CenterPoint intermodal facility where trains from the West Coast meet trucks that deliver the containers to warehouses.

The Joliet Arsenal Development Authority (JADA) was created in 1995 for the purpose of redeveloping the land.

Somewhat sandwiched between more than 1,400 acres of intermodal property is about 3,500 acres of U.S. Army land, which is used for training.

Simon also visited the site of a new building at the Joliet Army Training Center (technically located in Elwood), which is slated to be completed in August or September. The building will accommodate 400 Army Reserve soldiers on weekends for training purposes, said Thomas Helgeson, deputy director of public works for the U.S. Army’s 88th Regional Support Command, which oversees facilities in Illinois.

He said the land around the center is already used for training basic soldier skills, improvised explosive device (IED) recognition, Blackhawk helicopter exercises, and road/bridge construction.

He said the facility is also used by local sheriff departments, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Next to the training facility, an $8.7 million maintenance building is also being constructed. CenterPoint properties is paying for the building in exchange for easements along train tracks that cut through Army property, Helgeson said.