Freeway paint bombing proves pernicious new pollution

The roadway on this bridge along the Eel River in Fortuna is thoroughly plastered with paint. KLH | Union

The roadway on this bridge along the Eel River in Fortuna is thoroughly plastered with paint. KLH | Union


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."

Another 101 paintsplosion. KLH | Union

Another 101 paintsplosion. KLH | Union

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.

 

 

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22 Comments

  1. Crapola said:

    I thought it was quite creative. It stopped the argument, didn’t it? LOL

  2. Jack Durham said:

    William Wallace wins the award for the dumbest and least creative comment left on our website so far this year. Congratulations!

  3. Willliam Wallace said:

    A Hoover is what you use to suck filth up off the floor.

  4. norcalguy101 said:

    Hey Kevin, oh, you too editor Jack Durham, how many people have to die on US101 in Arcata because Caltrans can’t pave and stripe a freeway per the contract plans? Just asking. So Kali is one of your more profound commenters. Lovely commenting atmosphere over here.

  5. norcalguy101 said:

    Hey Kevin! Tell ya what, get on southbound US 101 at 14th Street. Then merge over to the left hand lane. Then try to maneuver your vehicle so your left wheels are three feet to the LEFT of the yellow solid stripe demarking the paved left hand shoulder. You know, the paved left hand shoulder that is supposed to be FIVE FEET WIDE?

    Maybe you ought to report on the ways Caltrans applies traffic striping paint right in your “community.” Especially before someone dies as a result of Caltrans’s “paint job.”

    And you and Jack Durham know what I’m talking about because you have been fully informed of the existing situation.

  6. Tom Sokolowski said:

    I’m new to the area, but I drive up 101 from the Bay Area on a regular basis. These crappy paint splatters are ugly and have got to go! Caltrans says: “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.” So What? What do we pay our gas taxes for? Get cameras on those bridges to catch the vandals, powerwash those roads, and just get it done!

    The road conditions we present to folks driving up to Humboldt says a lot about Humboldt, and a lot about us. No more lame excuses, just get it cleaned up.

  7. Kevin Hoover said:

    You haven’t supported any of your claims about paint splattering being harmless or lane markings being useless, but you do at last acknowledge that this is a problem:

    “CalTrans is probably doing it to cover their ass, just in case something does go wrong.”

    Exactly right. Caltrans is trying to address a problem before something goes wrong.

    “I have no idea.”

    Another thing we can all agree on.

  8. Fred Mangels said:

    You’re making things up to worry about. CalTrans is probably doing it to cover their ass, just in case something does go wrong. Why you’re so worried about it, I have no idea.

  9. Kevin Hoover said:

    “They always look about the same to me so it’s certainly not building up.”
    The only reality is that which you have personally experienced sitting behind your computer and opining.

    “I hardly think someone is going to lose their ability to drive down that lane even if the lane markings can’t be seen.

    Really. Lane markings have no purpose?

    “I’ve yet to hear of that complaint, aside from you and CalTrans.”

    Because you are reading this for the first time, it’s not true.
    How many times do you need to hear something before it attains validity? The second or third time maybe?

  10. Fred Mangels said:

    Kevin wrote, “…what would some libertarian blogger somewhere might say if Caltrans took
    your advice and let paint build up enough to cover up lane markings,
    “.

    Again, they’ve been tossing “paint” on these roads for how long? They always look about the same to me so it’s certainly not building up.

    And, again, I hardly think someone is going to lose their ability to drive down that lane even if the lane markings can’t be seen. In all the time this has been going on, I’ve yet to hear of that complaint, aside from you and CalTrans.

  11. Kevin Hoover said:

    1. Do these photos accurately represent every instance of paint splattering?

    2. The centerlines are obviously on the way to being fully covered. You’d let that happen and then do something about it?

  12. Kevin Hoover said:

    Let’s contrast and compare.

    I have photographs of indiscriminate splattering of paint on a bridge over a waterway, and the expert testimony of the agency responsible for protecting public property and safety.

    You have:

    • Several of your usual arguments from personal incredulity: “I don’t see/I don’t understand”-type statements.

    • A claim that because the road markings aren’t obscured in one photo, it hasn’t happened anywhere.

    • An unsubstantiated claim that Caltrans also splatters paint that runs off, but you can’t name anywhere that has happened.

    • Some sort of logic that says that since Caltrans’ paint erodes, that means splattering paint anywhere is benign.

    Imagine what would some libertarian blogger somewhere might say if Caltrans took your advice and let paint build up enough to cover up lane markings, and there was an accident, or a creek became poisoned. It’d be something castigating the agency for not doing its job, and calling for its abolition.

  13. Fred Mangels said:

    “”It’s pretty much a non- issue.”
    Based on what evidence?

    Based on the very photographs you and CalTrans provided. There are clearly no centerlines being obscured. Yet you and CT seem to be hyping it as if they were.

  14. Fred Mangels said:

    Same could be said about you and you’re apparent blind faith in some general statements made by CalTrans.

  15. Kevin Hoover said:

    “You can bet some of it ends up in the river.”
    That’s your data?

    “probably neither does the vandal paint.”
    Probably?

    “I’ve never once seen where you can’t tell where the center line is.”
    You’ve inspected all the paint vandalism sites as Caltrans has, and formed an evidence-based conclusion?

    “It’s pretty much a non- issue.”

    Based on what evidence?

    It turns out that there may be more to the world than 1. what you have personally observed, and 2. your guesses about things.

  16. Fred Mangels said:

    “First you said Caltrans paint “runs off,” but there’s no proof of that. Now you’ve changed it to “erodes.”

    Perhaps poor choice of words the first time, but who knows? CalTrans uses a lot more paint than these “vandals”, and Caltrans paint goes on wet. You can bet some of it ends up in the river. Not enough to cause any problems, but probably neither does the vandal paint.

    The Eureka Sough Bridge has had paint thrown on it for how long? Yet I’ve never once seen where you can’t tell where the center line is. It’s pretty much a non- issue.

  17. Kevin Hoover said:

    First you said Caltrans paint “runs off,” but there’s no proof of that. Now you’ve changed it to “erodes.”

    This is wet paint running into a creek. You’re saying that because Caltrans paint wears off, that makes pouring wet paint onto the road harmless. What’s the scientific process there?

    And you know that its the same kind of paint?

    Yes, you can see the center line on this bridge now. Does that mean that road markings haven’t been obscured in all the places that have been painted?

    I guess you’d wait until this line is fully obscured to take action?

  18. Fred Mangels said:

    Paint erodes and runs off all the time. That’s why you have to repaint things.

    I also don’t see how the paint is obscuring the center line. I can see the line in the picture. Aside from it not being that big a deal anyway. Not all roads don’t have center lines.

  19. Kevin Hoover said:

    Once again, you say that you don’t understand something, which means it isn’t an issue.

    Let’s see support for your claim that Caltrans’ lets paint run off. Where did this happen?

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