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IL Aldermen Decline to Repaint Bridge

Monday, February 25, 2019

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Evanston, Illinois, has an eyesore problem: City aldermen recently declined to paint a rail bridge that does not belong to the city, according to reports.

The structure, which crosses two murals and a sculpture installed last year, belongs to the Union Pacific railroad company, crossing the intersection of Green Bay Road, Emerson Street and Ridge Avenue. A construction project intended to improve the corridor was completed in 2017, but the work did not include the span.

Rusted Rail Bridge

To address the structure’s appearance, which is plagued with rust and peeling paint, council members opted to attach a heavy piece of fabric with clamps to the bridge, which should be easy and inexpensive to remove, noted Public Works Director David Stoneback. Union Pacific officials have asked for the fabric to come down, however. (This treatment has also been subject to repeated ripping.) Union Pacific noted that the Emerson-Ridge-Green Bay fabric covering was supposed to just be a temporary measure; the fabric interferes with structure safety inspections.

Union Pacific also reportedly inspects all its viaducts in the area twice a year, though the company refuses to share the inspection reports, namely fearing that the data could fall into the hands of terrorists.

Council members have turned down the idea of spending $350,000 to paint the bridge, a cost that would include lead paint removal, three coats of paint and traffic control and signal timing. The work was slated to have a lifespan of 25 years. The other, third option, would have been to put a free-standing decorative banner in front of the structure, something that would’ve lasted three years and cost between $210,000 and $310,000 depending on installation requisites.

Chris Venatta, senior project manager with Evanston, noted that since the work is considered an aesthetic improvement, Union Pacific leaders do not count the painting work as company responsibility. Stoneback noted that if the bridge were to be painted, the color should be reddish-brown, something recommended by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

According to Evanston Now, other viaducts in the area have been painted other colors. A 2010 IDOT memo on bridge painting policy named Interstate Green, and shades of blue and grey.

“I have a hard time considering spending $300,000 on something that’s not ours at all,” said alderman Tom Suffredin. “Can we just take down the canvas and put up signs that say, ‘hey, not our bridge?'”


Tagged categories: Bridges; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Rail

Comment from Stephen Gressel, (2/25/2019, 8:03 AM)

They should test what's left of the paint for lead and when they find lead in it, sue the railroad for letting the paint flake off and contaminate the surrounding area.

Comment from Mark Bowen, (2/25/2019, 3:23 PM)

Unfortunately, railroads have more Philadelphia lawyers than you can deal with.

Comment from William Feliciano, (2/25/2019, 4:06 PM)

Did anyone consider cleaning and painting only the outer face of the fascia (outside) girders that are most visible? Must be cheaper than blasting and painting the entire bridge.

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