KANKAKEE — The Kankakee County government is moving to reduce the shift-change traffic jams at the CSL Behring plant. And the state is vowing to speed up a request to make that happen.
The plan is to convert a three-way light at the Illinois Route 50 intersection at the Lowe’s hardware store to a four-way. CSL, the county’s second largest employer, promised to pay for the change.
On Tuesday, a county board oversight committee approved an agreement with CSL that the county would be the permit holder. The state Department of Transportation has signed a letter of understanding on the permit, which the county board is expected to vote on next month.
While CSL promises to pay for the project, the county would have ultimate responsibility for the intersection if the company were to leave.
The four-way light should be ready by late July, officials said.
The issue gained statewide attention earlier this month after a CSL executive revealed it had taken months to get the state to approve a permit for the project.
When the Daily Journal contacted the Department of Transportation about the permit request at the time, a spokeswoman said in a statement she had contacted the officials in question and that no such document existed. Yet, local officials were able to give the number for the permit request.
With the publicity of the permit reaching Springfield, it was announced that Gov. J.B. Pritzker would visit CSL.
During the governor’s visit, Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said there “has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes” with the traffic light.
“We are expediting the reviews. I have a team specifically put in charge of that review,” he said.
During the county meeting, board Chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, said the hope was to get the project done in time for the Chicago Bears camp in late July in Bourbonnais. The camp creates even more traffic on Route 50.
“We want to do this as quick as possible to get the permit in our hands,” Wheeler told the committee. “It’s been a whirlwind getting this together.”
CSL, an Australian pharmaceutical company, is pursuing what is seen as the largest plant expansion in Illinois. Its expansion is estimated to be far north of $1 billion and could double the existing 1,600-member workforce.