Hammond has begun testing the condition of a state line crossing it shut down unexpectedly last week, but the road will remain closed indefinitely, a city official said Thursday.
The city closed 136th Street, known locally as Boy Scout Road and as 134th Street on the Illinois side, on May 24 over concerns the road surface had deteriorated to the point that it was unsafe for drivers.
Hammond has hired a contractor to take core samples of 136th Street to evaluate the condition of the asphalt, according to Phil Taillon, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.’s chief of staff.
Based on the samples, which are expected next week, the contractor will recommend a total reconstruction or a simpler patch job to get the road "operational" again, he said.
Taillon could not say when 136th Street would be reopened. Hammond officials have to determine how to pay for the repairs before they can estimate when or if the roadwork will be completed, he said.
The unannounced closure caused frustration on both sides of the state line, with drivers forced to detour to the crossing at Gostlin Street, more than a mile to the south. In Chicago, the office of 10th Ward Alderwoman Susie Sadlowski Garza complained that Hammond hadn’t given any warning it was going to close the road, which is heavily used by Illinois drivers.
“The mayor did not call us — we literally got nothing,” Ismael Cuevas, Sadlowski Garza’s chief of staff, said on Wednesday, adding that McDermott’s office had not responded to “multiple” requests for information since the closure.
Taillon disputed Cuevas' claim that there has been no contact with the alderwoman's office since the closure. According to Taylor, he spoke with a Sadlowski Garza staffer after he learned of the decision on Friday and again on Tuesday to explain what Hammond plans to do about the 136th Street.
Even so, Hammond should have been more proactive in sharing information about the closure to Sadlowski Garza's office before the road was shut down, he said.
"We have to do a better job in communicating, because you are connecting two states," Taillon said.
In a May 24 appearance on WJOB radio, McDermott broached the possibility of closing 136th Street permanently due to the high cost of upkeep and problems associated with the roadway. The stretch of road east of the state line has become a magnet for illegal garbage dumping and a conduit for criminal activity from Chicago, he said.
“The fact is, there are other ways into Illinois,” McDermott said, naming Gostlin Street and 112th Street as alternatives. “This (road) doesn’t need to be there, it’s just another way in.”
Meanwhile, some business operators in the area have expressed concern that a protracted closure would drive customers away. On Wednesday, the Luke Oil station at 136th Street and Sheffield Avenue reported “a huge reduction” in customer traffic since the closure.
“Our business has gone way down,” station supervisor Serena Deason told said. “A lot of our customers come from Hegewisch and the (Harbor Point) trailer park, and they can’t get through.”