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Residents Concerned About Safety Of Jefferson Park Viaduct

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A North Side viaduct has cracked pillars, peeling paint and looks nasty. But is it dangerous? That's what Jefferson Park residents want to know.

CBS 2's Marie Saavedra took their fears to Union Pacific and got answers.

If you love your neighborhood but think it could use a facelift, you know how Mitchelle Kmiec feels. AT issue for her is the Union Pacific viaduct at Lawrence and Avondale.

"It's frustrating," she said. "I driveunder there a couple times a week. I don't walk under there anymore. You see a big chunk missing, and that's what started the whole thing. When I saw that missing, and I reported it two years ago."

In 2019 she took pictures and sent them to her alderman, who asked Union Pacific.

"They came back and said, well, they inspected it and it was structurally safe. End of story," she said.

That was until Aug. 25 when bits of Metra's Milwaukee Avenue bridge fell. IDOT insisted it was safe, but it renewed Kmeic's worry for the spot, and this time she had backup.

"If it's not necessarily unsafe, it just feels unfriendly," said Ryan Richter, who founded Jefferson Park Forward, which works on neighborhood beautification. "On the viaduct wall it says, 'Welcome to Jefferson Park.' And then you get under it, and you see the bridge, and it's not a very welcoming sight for our community."

CBS 2 took their concerns to Union Pacific, which says it inspects structures like this twice a year.

In this case, this property was looked at on March 5, and the inspectors deemed that it was safe. They say it's not pretty, but it's not a threat to anyone passing under it.

But after we showed up to the viaduct, we noticed a Union Pacific workman did, too, to give it the once-over. Still, this all feels like a cop out to Kmiec.

"Why is everybody after the citizens to take care of their property and corporations get a carte blanche to do whatever and not follow up and not take care of their property?" she asked.

She will continue to keep looking up.

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