CHICAGO (CBS) — 18th Street in Pilsen is where you can find some of the city’s best food, music and culture. A few blocks away, you can also find some things a community activist calls gross and unsafe.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory joins her on a neighborhood tour.READ MORE: Chicago Police Officer Shot In Shopping Center Parking Lot At North And Sheffield Avenues
Some of the brightest colors and broadest strokes in Chicago never see daylight. You can find the vibrancy in a viaduct. The 24 murals near 16th and Peoria streets connect University Village to Pilsen. The art attracts all sorts of visitors, including pigeons.
“I think it’s just so funny,” said Nancy Plax, pointing a mural with the words “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
“We might say, ‘We know why the pigeons poop right here,’” Plax said of bird waste that is splattered across the top of some murals and on the ground below.
The public art was installed only eight months ago. Plax spent two years fundraising for the project.
“You could take my blood pressure and see it rise up right away. It’s very disheartening,” Plax said of the constant pigeon poop.
She wants to bring art to the other viaducts between 15th and 16th streets, but in addition to pigeon droppings, Plax showed chips and chunks of fallen concrete in some spots, especially under the Racine viaduct. She worries the concrete could hit school kids passing through.
“God forbid something bad like that will happen, and, oh my God, all of a sudden the city is going to wake up,” said Plax.
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Trains run over top the viaducts. Union Pacific owns some of the tracks. A UP spokesperson said inspectors looked at its part of the rail bridge on May 18, and deemed it safe.
“The concrete conditions were inspected and will be monitored by our inspection team,” she said.
BNSF Railway also said its company is responsible for the structure, and that it routinely does inspections. But a BNSF Railway spokesperson added “maintenance under the structure is within the purview of the city.”
Chicago’s Department of Transportation isn’t so sure crumbling concrete is their job to clean up, but did acknowledge street and sidewalk maintenance as well as pigeon waste management falls under their responsibilities.
Asked about the city’s claim it is not responsible for cleaning up falling concrete, BNSF acknowledged, “General concrete spalling from our bridge deck is our responsibility.”
“Our local personnel does look for such debris along that corridor and clears it when present,” a spokesperson said. “I have asked our local personnel to look into the claim of the debris at this location. Once they are available to respond, I’ll be happy to pass along any plans to address possible concrete debris.”
Meantime, a CDOT spokesperson said 16th and Peoria (where Plax’s mural project and many birds live) is scheduled to be power-washed next week.
CBS 2 also reached out to Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson’s office in the 11th Ward, but did not get a response. His ward covers the viaduct at 16th and Peoria.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward) is charge of the viaduct at 16th and Racine. His representatives tell us “We have received calls from residents about the condition of the viaduct and have been in communication with BNSF multiple times in response to complaints of falling debris and needs for repair. BNSF has said they’ve gone out to investigate and clean. Our office has also contacted Union Pacific to see if they’re also responsible for the falling debris that has cluttered the viaduct.”MORE NEWS: Magnificent Mile: More Trouble For Area That Was Once A Crown Jewel Of American Retail
Plax is currently fundraising for another public art installation inside the Morgan Street viaduct.