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Blasters Go Rogue, Clean Part of 'Graffiti Bridge'

Friday, January 5, 2018

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James Romero, of Gulf Breeze, Florida, is a professional blaster with an agenda—to see how many layers of paint actually cover Pensacola's locally famous Graffiti Bridge.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, Romero’s estimate of “hundreds” of layers actually fell short of the mark.

Graffiti Bridge

Romero, part of the family that runs wet abrasive blasting contractor Absolute Dustless Blasting LLC, stopped by the bridge with his father after a job in Pensacola one day. Romero told the News Journal that since he and his father got into the blasting industry, they’ve wondered how thick the paint on the Graffiti Bridge was.

"So we said, 'Yeah, let's just go do a little a spot.' And when we did it, it blew my mind how thick it really was, how deep it really was."

Romero used a mixture that was 95 percent water and five percent crushed glass for the blasting, which yielded two golf-ball-sized spots. Each spot is reminiscent of a tree ring circle, in the layers of paint revealed, with each area about four inches thick.

Romero noted that the experimental power washing he did was on a section of the wall that didn’t get painted normally. From his estimate, the paint on the main section of the bridge is likely twice as thick.

Legal Concerns

While the experiment was informative, some have raised concerns as to its legality.

"Some people messaged me and said I should be thrown in jail, I'm defacing public property and all this stuff," Romero told the News Journal. "One, it's not a historical landmark. It's a public landmark. We weren't there to destroy the bridge, we were there really to gain knowledge."

Graffiti Bridge, also known as the 17th street CSX Railroad Trestle, is exempt from the statute that protects public property from defacement, noted the News Journal.

In light of the experiment, Romero has since questioned the safety of the bridge, given the addition of thousands of pounds of paint over the years.

When asked about safety concerns, a CSX spokesperson told the News Journal that the company conducts "a thorough examination of every bridge on our network at least once each calendar year,” which meets or exceeds regulatory and legal mandates.

Romero added that, if the city was interested in removing the rest of the paint from the bridge, given how high passions seem to run in relation to the paint-covered landmark, his company is not the one to call.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Graffiti; Graffiti removal; Infrastructure; Power washing; Surface preparation

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (1/5/2018, 12:03 PM)

Wow! So the bridge is structural paint with an endoskeleton of steel an concrete? The engineer in me cringes about the loading on the structure (yes, I know...for railway bridges there is a load limit with a factor of safety) and the potential for hidden corrosion / deterioration.


Comment from William Feliciano, (1/5/2018, 3:44 PM)

When the article stated that each spot that was water blasted was "4 inches thick", I'm hoping the author meant "4 inches wide", or I misunderstood the description altogether. I'm hoping they don't really mean 4 inches thick!


Comment from Scott Youngs, (1/8/2018, 11:19 AM)

It is concerning that CSX is not worried about the thousands of pounds of additional weight. While I am not a bridge inspector, I wonder how you can thoroughly inspect it?


Comment from Michael Halliwell, (1/9/2018, 12:21 PM)

Scott, I agree 100%...there is absolutely no way to adequately inspect a bridge with that much paint on it...you cannot see the condition of the steel and concrete. If water has worked into any crack, the potential for catastrophic failure is huge and you'd never see it.


Comment from Michael Beitzel, (1/19/2018, 4:55 PM)

It appears there are approximately 25 layers of paint each one being from 5 to 10 mils thick each mil is 1000th of an inch for total thickness of approximately 1/4 ". Any major structural crack or issue would be reflected thru the coating layers and observable. Given the milder climate of the area and infrequent freeze/ thaw cycles this is probably the most protected concrete structure on the entire rail line. The additional weight of coatings is insignificant. Rest easy


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