Aldermen tonight are scheduled to discuss whether they should negotiate an agreement with the Union Pacific railroad that would see the city take on some responsibility for maintaining the railroad’s viaducts in Evanston.

Most of the 17 viaducts, which carry Metra commuter trains through the city, haven’t been painted in at least 40 years.

But the railroad, city officials say, won’t make cosmetic improvements, like painting, and only does repairs when a structure is “severely deficient.”

However, in recent talks with railroad officials, city staffers learned that some other communities have signed “right-of-entry” leases with the railroad, which gives the local government the authority to enter the railroad’s property to make improvements — if the government is willing to pay for them.

Other towns that have reached such agreements with the railroad, a staff memo says, include Arlington Heights,  Des Plaines, Highland Park, Park Ridge and Winnetka.

But they’ve generally done so to improve the appearance of embankments along the right-of-way, rather than for viaduct painting.

The staff memo says the cost of a viaduct painting project could range from $250,000 to $400,000 — but doesn’t specify whether that estimate would be for just one viaduct or all of them.

Update 2 p.m. 10/13/14: In an email response to an inquiry from Evanston Now, Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said the cost estimate was for painting all 17 viaducts.

Update 9 a.m. 10/14/14: Robinson says the initial cost estimate she provided just covered painting, and that the viaducts will actually also need lead abatement and sandblasting which would be “a much more involved and costly process.” She says staff is now recalculating the cost estimates.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Thank you City Council

    Please let me be the first one to thank the city council for even considering using my tax dollars to maintain property for a private enterprise, the Union Pacific Railroad.  How about passing a law instead that forces the Union Pacific to maintain their prpoerty our else face daily fines for non compliance!

  2. Just what Evanston needs –

    Just what Evanston needs – doling out more corporate welfare.  If corporations are people should they not be treated just like the taxpers of this city – that is, if you have distressed property you should be made to bring it up to standards.  If my house looks as bad as the UP viaducts, can I now come to the city and get them to come and paint it for me on the taxpayers dime?

  3. More gross mismanagement from Wally and Friends

    The idea that the city would even consider this is just plain stupid.  To even touch their bridges could create huge liability issue for taxpayers. Forgot the fact Wally's legal department would write up a nonsense agreement. These bridges are not being maintain, just like the miles of water pipe under our streets and all other city assets. These bridges most likely have lead paint and also what happen as the clean the steel and it starts to fall apart?

    Wally focus in OUR assets, please today tell us who told you to look into this and waste staff time, ( its time to hold the public officials here responsible for misdirecting staff ) do we really need more staff? If this is what you use them for, I think not.

    1. Lead paint?

      Bill – I noticed your update – see my original comment – big reason the city should not be involved – do they every get the costs right?   Anyone involved with construction would know these bridges have lead paint, the city has zero business being involved.

      Just like they screwed up the whole methane gas issue at James Park – which now went over $200,000 and I suspect is raising.

  4. How about adding flower boxes?

    Perhaps the staff needs to include flower boxes on both sides of the viaducts. Parks and Recreation could maintain them.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.