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 firstname.lastname@example.org