By Vince Gerasole

CHICAGO (CBS) — With the deep freeze danger, many Chicagoans head underground to the Pedway to escape the cold; but sections can be dark, dirty, and confusing to navigate. That’s why there’s a push for an $18 million makeover.

“It’s easy and convenient,” said Dawn Marcus. “A blessing in disguise, and everyone should discover it.”

Alisa Baum, of Rogers Park, loves the Pedway too, especially on a cold day.

“It’s great. I have my coat unzipped,” she said.

But take a closer look, and the Pedway can be rough around the edges; rust and grime, nasty looking ceilings, stained floors and walls.

A section next to Macy’s, for example, used to be dark and dreary, but brighter lights and fresh paint in recent weeks helped somewhat.

The Pedway connects many spaces, both public and private, making coordination tricky.

“It needs a little more tender loving care to be better,” said Howard Learner, an attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Learner is working with city and county officials on an $18 million federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant to spruce up the Pedway.

“We ought to make the Pedway really good,” he said.

Part of the money would go for structural repairs and cosmetic improvements.

“There needs to be better navigation There needs to be better signage,” Learner said.

Despite signs with street names and a compass, getting around can be maddening at times.

For example, if you get off a train at Millennium Station, and want to get to the CTA Red Line, there’s no consistent signage to get you there.

Steps from Millennium Station, you’ll come to a sign that makes no mention of the CTA, but does have arrows directing Pedway users to Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center, and Grant Park.

College students walking through the Pedway on a recent field trip could only guess which direction to go to get to the Red Line or Blue Line subway stations.

Part of the $18 million grant for the Pedway would go toward pointing users in the right direction.

“This is a high-priority project,” Learner said. “How do we make it work really well for people?”

The grant application should be completed next month, with a decision by June. Some now-closed sections of the Pedway could reopen as part of the makeover.

Vince Gerasole