Vandals repeat their dirty work at Holme Ave. bridge

The new bridge that takes Holme Av­en­ue over rail­road tracks was graf­fiti-free last Thursday. By Monday, it was covered with fresh wall scrawls.

The con­tract­or whose work­ers spent two and a half days sand­blast­ing van­dals’ scrib­blings and re­paint­ing the struc­ture wasn’t par­tic­u­larly hope­ful  last Thursday that the walls would re­main clear.

ldquo;It’s a shame,” con­tract­or John Buckley said, adding he didn’t ex­pect the bridge’s sup­port­ing walls, which are all be­low street level, to stay un­touched by the neigh­bor­hood graf­fiti van­dals who tagged them with­in just a few days after the span’s re­con­struc­tion was com­plete on Oct. 25.

Al­though the bridge was painted with an anti-graf­fiti coat­ing, van­dals’ mark­ings had to be sand­blas­ted off, said Buckley.

“It’s a good product to a cer­tain ex­tent,” Buckley said of the coat­ing. 

If graf­fiti is dis­covered and power-washed with­in 24 hours, the coat­ing works, but oth­er­wise is doesn’t help much, Buckley said.

“We tried to use solvent, but that didn’t work either,” he said.

In­stead, the graf­fiti had to be sand­blas­ted with en­vir­on­ment­ally safe glass beads. Then, the bridge’s walls were re­painted and re­coated, Buckley said.

Neigh­bor Bob Hu­bler last Thursday doubted the bridge would make it through the week­end un­marked. On Monday, he said it was marked up over the week­end and looks as bad as it did be­fore all the cleanup work was done.

The graf­fiti that was cleaned off couldn’t really be seen from the street. Oth­er than to the van­dals who painted it on the bridge, the marred walls were read­ily vis­ible only to the train crews that travel up and down the freight line six nights a week, Buckley said. 

The Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Trans­port­a­tion es­tim­ated 22,000 mo­tor­ists use the Holme Av­en­ue bridge over the single-track rail line and the ad­ja­cent bridge over Wood Run.

The street had been blocked from Cov­ent Av­en­ue to Ar­thur Street since late June so the bridge over the rails could be re­built. PennDOT usu­ally sets up bridge work to al­low some lanes to re­main open as re­pairs are made, but the Holme Av­en­ue bridge was in such bad shape that wasn’t pos­sible.

Keep­ing traffic off that bridge helped speed along the work so the re­con­struc­tion’s late-Oc­to­ber com­ple­tion was way ahead of sched­ule. While that work was go­ing on, prob­lems were seen in the bridge over Wood Run, so they were re­paired, too.

The new bridge didn’t stay in mint con­di­tion long. It took van­dals no more than three or four days to sneak down to the tracks to tag the bridge’s wall, Hu­bler said late last month. He wasn’t sur­prised. Vehicles owned by con­tract­or Buckley & Com­pany Inc. were van­dal­ized when they were parked overnight near the bridge, and power tools were stolen, he said. Loc­al youths party un­der the bridge dur­ing the warm­er months and some­times set fires, he ad­ded.

Eu­gene Blaum, a PennDOT spokes­man, said in Novem­ber that the graf­fiti would be cleared off in a few weeks.  it was. The cost was $3,600, he said Thursday. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

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