in Green, Politics, Raleigh

Fighting graffiti on Raleigh highways

WRAL just did a story on the growing problem with graffiti on Raleigh-area highways like the I-440 Beltline, I-540, and I-40. City officials have always been quick to remove graffiti from city-owned and private-owned property, but all state-maintained roads are the responsibility of the N.C. Department of Transportation. Unlike Raleigh, NCDOT has dragged their feet in dealing with this issue and as a result the graffiti has spread.

I sent this email to NCDOT in April:

From: Mark Turner
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2010 1:38 PM
To: Halsey, Steven M
Subject: Graffiti around Raleigh NCDOT structures

Hello, Mr. Halsey,

Here are some spots around Raleigh with graffiti on NCDOT-maintained structures. I figured it was easier to email you than call:

1. I-40 West, Harrison Avenue overpass: orange graffiti on northside columns.

2. Wade Ave. Ext. under I-40 flyover: brown graffiti on southside columns.

3. Wade Ave. Ext. East at Blue Ridge Rd: black graffiti on southside columns.

4. I-440 West (outer) between Brentwood and Wake Forest Rd: graffiti on brick wall.

5. I-440 West (outer) at Lake Boone Trail: graffiti on brick wall.

6. I-440 West (outer) at Lake Boone Trail: graffiti on median barrier.

7. I-440 West (outer) at Glen Eden overpass: graffiti on columns.

If you are not the right contact for this info I’d appreciate you forwarding me to the proper person. If you have any questions, feel free to call.

Thanks so much!

Here’s the response I got back:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: RE: Graffiti around Raleigh NCDOT structures
Date: Mon, 3 May 2010 11:03:07 -0400
From: Halsey, Steven M
To: Mark Turner
CC: Briley, William R , Holmes, Jason M

Mr. Turner:

I have copied Reese Briley, Division Bridge Engineer on this response. He is your contact person for graffiti on bridge structures.

As for the other areas you have mentioned on the noise walls, we will work to get them removed as soon as we can, but since removal is not directly related to the safety of the traveling public, I can’t make it graffiti removal a priority based on other work we currently have on our schedule. A crew is currently working to remove graffiti along I-540, and we will do our best to work on I-440 next.


Steve Halsey
Wake County Maintenance Engineer

Some time went by, I didn’t hear anything more, and nothing got done. I suspected foot-dragging, so I figured I’d follow up with Secretary Gene Conti:

From: Mark Turner
Sent: Monday, May 24, 2010 8:51 AM
To: Conti, Gene
Subject: Fwd: RE: Graffiti around Raleigh NCDOT structures

Mr. Conti,

As a fellow East Raleigh neighbor, I know you are aware of the problem of gang graffiti. It’s not something we want to see in the Capital city. Leave graffiti up too long and it spreads – creating a bigger problem.

Much of the graffiti I reported below has been there for many months. I have made multiple calls on this vandalism and nothing has yet been done. I don’t know what else to do at this point so that’s why I’m writing you.

Would you see what you can do to get the graffiti off Beltline walls and overpasses, please?

Thanks for your attention!

This was passed on to Sec. Conti and was soon followed by this response:

Subject: Graffiti
Date: Thu, 27 May 2010 15:46:20 -0400
From: Jones, Brandon H
To: Mark Turner
CC: Jernigan, Hannah, Halsey, Steven M, Holmes, Jason M, Elmore, Thomas R, Bowman, John W, Hopkins, Joey

Mr. Turner,

On behalf of Secretary Conti I would like to take an opportunity to respond to your concerns about graffiti on NCDOT rights of way.

The department is aware of the existence of the graffiti and has made an effort along sections of I-540 to remove some graffiti from walls and bridges only to have come back again. It does take considerable man hours to address graffiti removal and we are not currently in a position to react to graffiti as soon as it happens. The same men and women that remove graffiti are the same ones doing vital maintenance work on bridges, overpasses and signs to assure safety of the traveling public. I understand the graffiti around 440 has been there for a while and we will get that removed in the near future.

We will be exploring different avenues to address this issue such as a graffiti removal contract or a designated crew made up mostly of inmates.


Brandon Jones
Division Five Maintenance Engineer

Email correspondence to and from this sender is subject to the N.C. Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.

Again, sounds like a runaround. So I just wrote the governor.

I’m sure DOT can solve this problem it’s got so many resources, right? If not, why can’t it either get prisoners to work fixing the problem or contract out to the city of Raleigh to take care of it? And don’t say there aren’t any resources: there is double-digit unemployment in this area. There should plenty of people who would want this job.

As I told Governor Perdue, the people of North Carolina did not pay top-dollar for these beautiful brick noise walls only to see them become billboards for criminals. Let’s hope this problem gets dealt with before it spirals way out of control.

Update 16 June:
Anthony Wilson of WTVD 11 has done a story on the Beltline graffiti problem. Hopefully it will now get some attention.

Update 21 June:
Good news! The graffiti is now being cleaned up.