Watch CBS News

What Is Chicago Doing About Residents' Complaints About Crumbling And Filthy Viaducts?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A frustrated viewer reached out about his neighborhood viaduct. He's sent us pictures over the course of the summer showing his sidewalk blocked by garbage at different times. It's hardly the only walkway with this stinky situation.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory looks how the city responds to 311 complaints of filth and more.

In a series of CBS 2 stories in the past couple of months, viewers have grumbled to us about nasty pigeon poop, concerning cracks, and peeling paint.

"For as long as I've worked here, there's been talk about conditions of the viaducts," said Grace Chan McKibben, from the Coalition for a Better Chinese Community on July 23.

We met her to discuss the viaducts in her neighborhood that weren't exactly welcoming with debris on the ground and chunks missing from the walls.

Safety and cleanliness in our underpasses is not something Chicago residents take lightly. CBS 2 found more than 300 viaduct-specific complaints to 311 in less than three years.

Most complaints are marked completed, like "Large metal piece dangling and about to fall" in Calumet Heights, and "Falling debris in traffic lanes" in Chatham. Our quick check of both spots showed the issues were resolved, but how?

More than a third of the time, the Chicago Department of Transportation passed problems off by referring them to railroad companies for investigation.

CDOT's responsibilities include pothole repairs and fixing broken lights.

We spotted at least 80 complaints specifically about trash in viaducts. 311 records show many of those issues were considered "complete" with the city response of "No Viaduct Cleaning Program."

CBS 2 asked how that solves the problem, and CDOT explained those requests are forwarded to the Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS).

At least on 67th and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, it's hard to tell if DSS addressed those gripes about garbage. It depends what's considered clean.

A DSS spokesperson tells us that, in general, the department "...cleans viaducts through its regular street sweeping program, and in response to requests from residents, ward superintendents, other departments, and aldermanic offices. Ward superintendents also monitor the need for viaduct cleaning and regularly reach out to crews for cleanup."

We do know activist Nancy Plax's incessant emails to the city about her dilapidated University Village viaduct finally got results.  CDOT came out for a tour in July and left with a promise to paint.

Plax tells us that promise was fulfilled recently near 16th and Morgan streets - a testament to persistence being key and a proof that there's no harm in keeping 311 complaints coming.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.