City Wants State Graffiti Help

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Councilwoman Sharon Zadra wants the Nevada
Department of Transportation to increase graffiti cleanup efforts
on sections of highways running through Reno or pay the city to
remove it.
"It makes an awful statement about our community," Zadra said
of tagging on highly visible freeway sound walls and overpasses.
"It says there is a lack of concern and pride."
Zadra claims the state agency isn't doing enough to remove
graffiti from areas along Interstate 80 and U.S. 395, and said the
city could use state funds to "perform the work they are not
performing on their property."
But state transportation officials dispute Zadra's allegation,
saying graffiti removal is important but not first on their highway
maintenance schedule.
"The safety issues come first," said Thor Dyson, NDOT district
engineer for Reno-Sparks, Carson City and nearby areas. "The
graffiti issues come after that.
"There are certain things that occur every day that will take
priority over graffiti removal," said Dyson, who has a maintenance
crew of 200 to cover 2,000 miles of highway in his district. "Road
closures. Snow and ice removal. I might have a safety issue with a
guardrail repair. I might have a section of road where the shoulder
is caving in."
City, law enforcement and community leaders are looking for
solutions to combat the problem. A public meeting about the problem
is scheduled March 18 at the Reno Livestock Events Center.
One reason for the graffiti increase along freeways is the
addition of sound walls to block traffic noise from adjacent
neighborhoods, which the federal government has required in recent
years, Dyson said.
"It's like a canvas for graffiti artists," Dyson said.
Highway workers have completed 40 to 50 graffiti-removal
assignments in northwestern Nevada in the last six months, Dyson
said. He added that the department's spending on graffiti removal
statewide increased from $88,000 in 2003 to $151,000 in 2005.
Zadra suggested the state pay Reno to remove highway graffiti
with funds NDOT withholds from contractors who miss completion
deadlines for road projects.
"Just give us the dollars," Zadra said. "We will provide the
equipment and manpower."
But Dyson said NDOT highway construction money can't be used for
other purposes.
"These funds can't be handed over to cities and counties,"
Dyson said. "There is a strict appropriation mechanism."