Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – You may have seen the explosions of paint on the freeway bridge over the Eureka Slough just outside Eureka. Drive up or down U.S. Highway 101 from points south, and you'll find several more paint-bombed hotspots. One, a 101 bridge along the Eel River south of Fortuna, is so thoroughly splattered with multi-colored paintsplosions it could be a fanciful roadway from Yellow Submarine's Pepperland.
While on the surface it looks kinda cool, it's proving highly problematic and Caltrans is appealing to the public to end the psychedelic pollution. Today, the agency made a Facebook post explaining the problem and pleading for an end to the paint bombing.
"We'd be happy if it stopped," said Eli Rohl, Caltrans spokesman. "We're actively looking to deter people from doing it."
Rohl said that bridges are, for some reason, being targeted for intensive splattering. The bridges often traverse waterways, and paint runoff obviously isn't good for fish or other critters that make a living in riparian zones.
"It's got serious environmental impacts," Rohl said.
Risks for humans are elevated too, as various road markings such as lane stripes are obliterated. Further, the grippy road surface is slickened up by the paint. "We're worried about people slipping on it," Rohl said.
The paint also splatters up onto passing vehicles. "I've had to spend entire days cleaning the paint off the side of my truck from these so called 'artists'," said one commenter on Caltrans' Facebook page. "It's getting ridiculous."
Rohl said even abatement would be problematic. "The people doing it are trying to make a statement, so as soon as we clean it up, someone will hit it again and we'd just be wasting taxpayer dollars."
Caltrans is working with "various law enforcement agencies" to catch the culprits, and when they do, the suspects will be facing felony charges. Vandalism that creates damage in excess of $750 is felonious.
Rohl said the phenomenon may be traceable to an incident from 10 or 15 years ago, when a can of paint fell of a truck near Stafford. The resulting splash of color spawned copycat splatterers, and now it's become a thing.
"It's hurting the community that we live in," Rohl said.