State Highway Administration Paints Over Beltway Graffiti

The “bridges not walls” message was removed over the weekend


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Contract painters quickly covered the graffiti on the CSX bridge Saturday.

Joe Zimmermann

The latest graffiti message to appear on a CSX train bridge over the Beltway in Silver Spring is no more.

After only a few days on display to passing commuters, the message of “bridges not walls” has been painted over by State Highway Administration contractors.

Workers covered up the graffiti Saturday morning, SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said Tuesday.

“At our expense we covered up the vandalism that occurred there,” he said. “It’s not to be tolerated there anymore.”

After receiving notification about the vandalism Feb. 9, SHA officials wanted to act fast to remove the graffiti from the bridge, which CSX rents, but the state maintains. Gischlar said the vandalism was a safety issue, as it presented a distraction to drivers and because the vandals could be putting themselves in danger to paint on the bridge or might drop something onto the highway.

The bridge, near the Washington, D.C., Temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints in Kensington, has served previously as the canvas for other notable instances of graffiti, including “Wizard of Oz” references and dedications to local punk heroes Fugazi.

The graffiti message read "bridges not walls" before it was painted over. (Photo by Joe Zimmermann)

The highway administration hired paint contractors, who used lifts to raise painters up to the bridge so they could spray over the lettering with light blue paint. Workers closed one lane of traffic while completing the job, which took less than ten minutes and cost about $70, Gischlar said.

The work Saturday was meant to be a “quick and fast” job to simply cover the message and prevent distraction, so workers will likely return to more completely cover the paint on the bridge, he said.

The graffiti message of “bridges not walls” is something of a mantra for protesters who oppose President Donald Trump’s proposed Mexican border wall and crackdown on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries. It also echoed statements made by the U.N. in January and Pope Francis last week.

Gischlar said the decision to cover the vandalism was purely about safety and not politically motivated.

“There are other ways to express your views and vandalism is not one of them,” Gischlar said. “We had to cover it up when it said ‘Surrender Dorothy,’ too.”

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