In May 1998, a one-mile section of Historic Route 66 (Joliet Road) in McCook, Illlinois was closed due to pavement faults.
Looking northeast from just east of East Avenue, the barricades and chain-link fence close off the damaged section of the Mother Road
The Illinois Department of Transportation alleged in a lawsuit filed in 2001 that quarrying activities of Vulcan Materials on either side of the road damaged the state right-of-way. Vulcan has consistently denied any liability for damage. After nearly nine years, the case is now scheduled to be heard in court starting May 10th. (Full disclosure: I have been retained by lawyers for IDOT to provide expert testimony on the history of Route 66 and the specific history of this section of Joliet Road through McCook).
From the Township Maps of Cook County, published by the County Department of Highways, 1974. 66/Joliet Road runs diagonally across the center, from top left to lower right. The Santa Fe railroad is shown below Joliet Road, and southwest of 55th Street three of the quarries later owned by Vulcan Materials are also noted.
Since the closure of Joliet Road, traffic has been detoured onto a two-mile detour following 55th Street and East Avenue. I wrote an article concerning the road closure for the Spring 2006 issue of the Federation News
, the quarterly publication of the National Historic Route 66 Federation
. Here is an excerpt from that article:
In the Autumn 2002 issue of the Federation News, then-Mayor of McCook Patrick Gorski wrote, “In May of 1998 a one mile stretch of Historic Route 66 was closed due to damage to the roadway…the road basically split in half and was actually moving, therefore causing certain sections of the roadway to sink, causing areas to crack, and concrete jersey walls to explode from the pressure of the movement…Limestone in the area was mined right up to about fifteen feet on the north and south sides of the Historic Highway 66 corridor. This type of mining, and excavating, along with other acts committed by the quarry operators, caused the roadway to be damaged.”
A Chicago Tribune article from January 26, 2001 stated, “Vulcan blames Mother Nature: The company says the rock cracks and slippages that ultimately ruined the roadway extend 400 feet down, much farther than Vulcan has ever mined.” According again to former Mayor Gorski, “On September 21, 2001, the People of the State of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Transportation, filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, seeking injunctive relief and damages against the local quarry involved in the mining and excavation of the area surrounding the Historic Route 66 corridor.”
Closed section of Route 66 in McCook
The lawsuit should determine whether or not Vulcan Materials is legally liable for damage to the IDOT right-of-way; however, it may have little bearing on the question of whether the road can ever be safely reopened.