The Union Pacific viaduct crossing Ridge Avenue and Emerson Street at Green Bay Road could have a new diaper covering its neglected surface if plans presented to Evanston aldermen this week are carried out.

As part of a much larger project to upgrade the streets near the viaduct, city staff showed aldermen a series of options for new painted vinyl mesh screens that could cover the viaduct — ranging from the giant city logo in the city’s new wayfinding color scheme, to a montage of photographs of local landmarks.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that while the company that makes the screens claims they will last 10 years, he thinks a more realistic life expectancy for them is about half that long.

The existing shroud covering the viaduct, installed several years ago, has repeatedly come loose from the clamps anchoring it to the bridge structure and been left flapping in the breeze, as seen in the photo above taken last December.

City staff estimates the cost of the new screen at $10,000 to $15,000 each for the viaducts two faces.

Staff estimates painting the sides of the bridge would cost $40,000. Painting the underside of the bridge would cost $60,000 more, and painting the support columns under the bridge would cost $15,000. The paint job, staff says, would come with a 10 year warranty.

So far the city has been unsuccessful in finding a way to get the railroad to pay for beautifying the viaduct structure. The railroad’s position is that the bridge remains structurally sound, and it has no obligation to make it look good.

Aldermen won’t take a vote on which viaduct beautification option to pursue until later this fall. The next update on the Emerson-Ridge-Green Bay project is planned for the Tuesday, Sept. 15, council meeting when alderman are scheduled to receive a presentation about new lighting options for the three streets.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why not sell the space for advertising? No taxpayer $$$$!

    Why should we be spending taxpayer money? Evanston could surely could get businesses to pay for the covering by allowing them to put advertising on them. Give local businesses first shot. Maybe even Northwestern would be interested? I see Northwestern “Chicago's Big Ten Team” advertising everywhere. Why not on a rail viaduct? Our alderman can figure out how to generate money by charging fees for everything and writing parking tickets. This one seems pretty easy and straight forward to me!

    1. Oh I don’t know, maybe
      Oh I don’t know, maybe because some of us would rather look at it the way it is now than see ads on it.

  2. It could easily pay for itself
    What if we sold removable advertising to the shroud covering that could be sold (changed) monthly. I think we got a gold mine here!

  3. Who owns the bridge?

    Does the City own the bridge/viaduct?  Why isn't Union Pacific ponying up money for it's maintenance?

    Inquiring minds (and over taxed-payers) want to know…

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

    1. Citizen comment

      Being the quirky city that it is. Several viaducts to suport the structure   Who paid for all the improvments for the previous restoration of the structure over the years. What about the railroad's not for profit preservation committee?  I believe the dignity of the railroad is quetionable.   I have seen the nice  work of art students ,of various organizations on the sides of the viaducts.  Is this really a matter of beautification?  The budget for flowers in pots in the downtown area (spoiled residents that have complained of lack of upkeep) must cost a fortune.  Flowers in the traffic circles,,etc.  ugh.  There is a cost of being the most "liveable city"  Ask those that support these initiatives to come up with ideas.  The display of the Evanston logo, over the street as being a gateway to Evanston may be confusting.  Lets just say it is the gateway to one of the big ten members.  That would be in keepimg with the idea of the West End business district signage. Geez What Next?

  4. The covers are far more ugly

    The covers are far more ugly than the industrial design of the steel they try to cover, the money, which we dont have, would be far batter utilized in parks or education.

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. Required fields are marked *