Quarry Quandry Means Millions for IDOT-Finally
May 19, 2010
BY MIKE NOLAN
Vulcan Materials has agreed to pay $40 million to settle claims that its quarrying operations ruined a stretch of historic Route 66 in McCook.
The Illinois Department of Transportation sued Vulcan in September 2001, three years after closing a mile-long stretch of Joliet Road adjacent to Vulcan's quarry. IDOT alleged that decades of mining had destabilized the road, but Vulcan contended that several factors had contributed to the road's deterioration.
Vulcan, based in Birmingham, Ala., didn't admit to any liability in the settlement, which was reached Monday and announced Tuesday. IDOT said the agreement was reached after three weeks of negotiations.
Under the settlement, IDOT will get $20 million within 10 days. The remaining $20 million will be paid as Vulcan receives funds from its insurers, with the full amount to be paid no later than nine months from the date of the settlement.
Thousands of vehicles traveled the stretch of Joliet Road between East Avenue and 55th Street on a daily basis before IDOT closed it in May 1998. The segment remains closed.
The state said it would schedule public meetings to discuss future road improvements for the area around the closed section of Joliet Road. The settlement doesn't specify that the $40 million be used for those improvements, and IDOT representatives did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) said it's unlikely Joliet Road will be reopened, but he wants IDOT to explore options for relieving congestion on nearby streets caused by the closing. He said IDOT also must announce whether the road is being closed permanently.
"Not a month goes by that a person doesn't ask me what the situation is with Joliet Road," Lipinski said.
A Vulcan spokesman, Joshua Robbins, said the company and IDOT held "substantial settlement discussions over the years" aimed at ending the lawsuit.
"We're ready to put everything behind us and continue serving our customers and the community," he said.
Vulcan still has two quarries operating in McCook, employing about 120 people.
IDOT said its experts had determined that Vulcan's mining - its quarries have operated for more than a century - had damaged that section of Joliet Road to the point where frequent and costly repairs would be needed to maintain the road.
Robbins said Vulcan believed its quarries were not the sole reason for the road's problems.
"There were many studies, and many experts identified many factors that contributed to the road's instability," he said.
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