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.