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New sidewalk installed, crummy pavement replaced in BNSF Western stop viaduct

The horrific conditions of the viaduct before the rehab. Image: Google Maps

Until recently, the viaduct below the Metra BNSF Line's Western Avenue station at 18th Street in Pilsen would have been a good place to film a horror movie, with broken sidewalks, bubbling pavement, and filthy arches, but the underpass recently got a makeover.

The location of the viaduct. Image: google Maps
The location of the viaduct. Image: Google Maps
The location of the viaduct. Image: google Maps

In what was probably the least glamorous Chicago ribbon-cutting ceremony in recent memory, Chicago Department of Transportation chief Gia Biagi and 28th Ward alderman Jason Ervin celebrated the viaduct's reopening after renovation.

A worker repaints the arches. Photo: CDOT
A worker repaints the arches. Photo: CDOT
A worker repaints the arches. Photo: CDOT

The project, which was funded by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $3.7 billion Chicago Works infrastructure program, included reconstructing the street, sidewalks and drainage in the tunnel, which sees about about 25,000 motor vehicle trips per day The capital plan includes $12.3 million for viaduct rehab projects in 2021 and 2022.

Biagi (second from left) and Ervin (center) at the ribbon-cutting. Photo: CDOT
Biagi (second from left) and Ervin (center) at the ribbon-cutting. Photo: CDOT
Biagi (second from left) and Ervin (center) at the ribbon-cutting. Photo: CDOT

“Our railroad viaducts are a critical part of the infrastructure that makes Chicago a transportation hub for the nation,” said Biagi in a statement. “Thanks to Mayor Lightfoot’s Chicago Works capital program, we are making major investments to improve the condition of our viaducts to keep people and goods moving throughout the region – and to help our neighborhoods thrive and stay connected.”

Thank you. As a cyclist, this viaduct has always been a bit scary! Could we please do the same to the Sacramento and Carroll viaduct?

— David (@MacKayRadio) November 1, 2021

The makeover should make conditions a little safer and more pleasant for Metra commuters. And while Western is generally a pretty awful place to ride a bike, as you can see from the above tweet, at least one person who bikes appreciates the fresh pavement. He rightly points out that other Chicago viaducts would be better places to ride if they received similar TLC.

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