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Will County executive vetoes act to stop 143rd Street widening


Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant on Saturday vetoed a county board resolution to stop the widening of 143rd Street through Homer Glen, saying she signed it in error.

The veto came two days after the Will County Board of Commissioners voted 12-9 to halt the planned widening project and have the county’s transportation department consider widening the road to three lanes instead of five.

For several months, Homer Glen and Homer Township residents and officials have asked the county to halt the $60 million project that would widen a 3-mile stretch of 143rd Street from State Street/Lemont Road to Bell Road to five lanes. The road is now one lane in each direction.

Will County Board Administrator, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, at the Will County Board 2023 meeting. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

Opponents of the 143rd Street widening celebrated the halt of the widening project on Friday and posted a signed copy of the resolution on social media.

Bertino-Tarrant responded in a statement Saturday, saying she signed the order by mistake and did not allow him to go to the clerk’s office. He said it was never his intention to return a signed resolution to the county board, but rather to use his veto power.

Mayor Christina Neitzke-Troike said the village of Homer Glen, which opposes the expansion, could take legal action to prevent the project from proceeding.

If the veto right is allowed to stand, Neitzke-Troike said, the executive would ask the Homer Glen Village Board to seek an injunction as the township board signs and submits the resolution to halt the project. Neitzke-Troike said she will continue to fight for residents’ desire to keep the road as is.

In her veto message, Bertino-Tarrant said the decision halting the expansion project did not meet traffic demands and public safety and was contrary to the county board’s years-long action to widen 143rd Street.

Preliminary engineering studies to widen the road began in 2009, and public hearings were held in 2014, 2018 and 2019.

Bertino-Tarrant said the county board has repeatedly given clear direction to the Will County Transportation Department to widen the segment of 143rd Street and has unanimously supported it on 10 separate occasions since 2009.

“Elected representatives serving on the township board, including those representing communities along 143rd Street, have repeatedly voted for this project,” he said. “Following the unanimous guidance of our elected legislature, Will County has maintained a consistent position since 2009: that the existing two-lane roadway poses a hazard to the public, impedes traffic flow, and impedes safe passage for residents through the county.”

The county has already spent $6.2 million on the project, including engineering and design costs and relocation of facilities to create a safer road, Bertino-Tarrant said.

“While several members of the board have expressed the belief that the county should ‘cut our losses’ on this project after years of consistent guidance, I do not believe individual board members who have changed their minds will come with a $6.2 million price tag for this project. taxpayers,” Bertino-Tarrant said.

The county also received a $7 million federal grant to implement the project as planned.

Bertino-Tarrant said Thursday’s county board decision does not address safety and traffic issues. This also conflicts with a separate resolution approved Thursday advocating the use of expedited proceedings on the board’s legislative agenda.

The board approved expedited entitlements in November and is negotiating for the 116 parcels needed to complete the expansion. If the road were widened to three lanes, a similar amount of land would still be needed to meet drainage requirements, said Jeff Ronaldson, the county’s transportation director.

Bus drop-off and pickup at Reed School would be affected by the expansion, the district's business manager told district officials in December.  (Michelle Mullins/Daily Southtown)
Bus drop-off and pickup at Reed School would be affected by the expansion, the district’s business manager told district officials in December. (Michelle Mullins/Daily Southtown)

Some Homer Glen residents believe widening the road to five lanes would create more congestion, traffic, noise and pickup trucks. The project would take away some of their land and cause difficulties when trying to leave their neighborhood. An official at Reed Elementary School on 143d Street said the expansion would create problems for buses and parents traveling to and from the school.

County Board President Judy Ogalla, a Republican from Monee, issued a news release Friday saying that after hours of public testimony, it was clear the project had to be stopped and the public’s voices were not being ignored.

Board Republican Leader Steve Balich, whose district includes the 143rd Street project, said he felt the resolution signed Friday should stand. He said the board will have many questions about the procedure and how mistakes were made, and it’s possible it could be taken to court.

He said he believes the expansion is currently in limbo and that may be left to lawyers.

“How many people made mistakes about the biggest problem the county has had in years,” Balich said. “I don’t know how this will end. It’s not over. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.”

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.


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