Rusty railroad viaducts at Davis and Dempster streets Evanston will get a fresh paint job this summer.

Annie Coakley of Downtown Evanston told residents at a 1st Ward meeting Thursday night that the project is being funded by Metra, the commuter rail agency whose trains run on the tracks through Evanston owned by the Union Pacific Railroad.

Union Pacific has balked for years at making improvements to the viaducts, saying that, despite their rusted appearance, they remain safe for operations.

Several of the viaducts were last painted in the 1970s, when the tracks were still owned by the Chicago and North Western Railway.

Coakley said work on the Davis Street viaduct is scheduled to start May 24 and take about four weeks. After that the work will start on the Dempster Street viaduct.

In other downtown beautification news, Paul Zalmezak, economic development manager for the city, said the city has just issued a request for proposals for contractors to form a “Clean Team” to serve downtown plus the Main-Dempster and Howard Street shopping districts.

He said city is seeking to have several people wearing distinctive vests who — in addition to cleanup chores would also serve as “ambassadors” to provide directions to visitors and build relationships with local businesses.

“More dedicated eyes on the street can help move people along” who shouldn’t be there or call police if something’s not right, Zalmezak added.

Zalmezak said the city has also applied for a $1.5 million grant from the state that would be used to remove some of the planters on Chicago Avenue and Orrington Avenue that are in rough shape, block restaurants from offering outdoor dining and have become “rat hotels.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. My concern about the Metra viaducts is not solely based on the fact that they are a major eye sore and a humiliation to see, but the fact that the rust is indicative of decay. It seems that no accountability or responsibility is being taken regarding their condition. I think that we first need to have a structural engineer to look at the structures to determine their condition before we go ahead and cover up the eye sore with a pretty coat of paint. Whoever owns the Metra line that operates in Evanston, running down to Ogilvie and north to Milwaukee and the North Shore, should be responsible for regularly caring for and maintaining the structure or they should sell it to someone who is willing to act responsibly. This is a service business that we as consumers depend on.

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