Drivers fed up with graffiti on freeway signs suggest implementing SoCal prevention methods

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News viewers are joining in on our effort to help Build a Better Bay Area. South Bay resident, Brian Tamayo posted to our Building a Better Bay Area Facebook group about an issue he couldn't ignore.

"I see a lot of tagging on our signage," Tamayo said. "On the overhead freeway signs out there. Mostly on the overpasses, or on those catwalks you see on 280 or the 101."

RELATED: 100 murals meant to curb graffiti, beautify community going up in Downtown San Jose

ABC7 News crews didn't have to travel far to find exactly what Tamayo was talking about. While most signs were clean and clear, others were covered in a good amount of graffiti.

Drivers don't want to see it, and the bigger problem is drivers can't see through it.

Tamayo's Facebook post mentioned measures he's noticed around Southern California. Specifically, steps taken to prevent graffiti vandals in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

We reached out to Caltrans, District 7 in Southern California. Eric Menjivar with the district explained special crews, plastic film around signs, and spiked columns are just a few ways the district is trying to deter vandals.

"Some other methods that we use are barbed wire that we post up on signs that are sometimes above the freeway," Menjivar said.

He called graffiti abatement an everyday battle for Caltrans, as violators grow more creative. In the past, clean-up has cost tax payers millions of dollars.

"This has been something that our district has been working on for quite some time, for the past few years," Menjivar said. "Our Special Crews Region, they try to adapt to how these graffiti artists get onto our freeways and get onto some of these hard places that aren't supposed to be reached by people."

Referring to a few YouTube videos, he said, "They'll sometimes use a rope, go to extreme measures, put them in harm's way just to get a tag up on a high location."

Menjivar explained if the graffiti shows any hate speech or curse words, the district removes the graffiti right away. In other extreme cases, signs are replaced.

Caltrans also uses a Type 11 3M coating that is retro-reflective so that cars lights reflect off the signs at night.

RELATED: San Francisco officials crack down on graffiti, arrest 7

The coating allows Caltrans to save on energy by removing the up-lights, and remove the catwalk that housed the lights so the sign panels are not accessible to graffiti taggers and vandals.

"Caltrans workers across the state, we're very proud of our work and we also take a lot of pride in our freeways," he added.

ABC7 News has reached out to our local Caltrans district in the Bay Area.

While no one was immediately available to comment, a public information officer with District 4 says it works with the California Highway Patrol and has maintenance crews focused specifically on graffiti removal.

Still, Tamayo says more should be done, proactively.

"If L.A. can do that, and Orange County can do that, why can't we do that up here," he asked.

Menjivar added, "It doesn't matter who comes up with the ideas, as long as it's a good one. And everyone gets to use it and it benefits the public. That's all that matters."

Caltrans encourages others to report graffiti, litter and other obstruction through this link.

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