SAN JOSE -- For South Bay drivers disgusted by graffiti-covered overpasses and tagged train trestles, something is finally being done.
Next week Caltrans, San Jose and Union Pacific workers will combine to scrub the train crossing over Highway 101 near 13th Street and repaint it. A few days later, the same cleanup will be performed on the 101-McKee Road bridge and soon after on the Bird Avenue crossing over I-280 west of downtown San Jose, where a large yellow "RIP TOMMY" tag has been up for more than two months.
"I would love that (to be cleaned up)," said Loui Tucker of San Jose, an Adopt-A-Highway organizer on a stretch of I-280 east of Highway 17. "Of course, if they are going to clean off the tags, they have to do something to prevent taggers from getting up there again."
That's the plan. Barriers have recently been installed both on and under the overpasses to make it more difficult to reach, and fences have been raised.
"Whether that works, time will tell," said Suzanne Wolf, deputy director of the city's parks and recreation department. "But we're working toward a long-term rather than just an immediate fix."
The work at 101 and 13th Street will begin Monday night and could last until Wednesday. It will require closing some lanes on 101 overnight.
San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo has been flooded with complaints about this bridge, said aide Fred Buzo: "Definitely. More than any other one."
But the Bird Avenue crossing over 280 is also high on the complaint list. This is where the bright "RIP TOMMY" tag has been drawn on the west side of the train crossing used by Caltrain.
It's believed to be a tribute to Tommy Martinez Jr., who died Jan. 19 after slipping on loose gravel and falling from a 300-foot cliff above Davenport Beach in Santa Cruz County.
Vandals have hit nearly every freeway in the Bay Area in recent months. They've targeted sound walls, which are easier to reach, and almost any sign is also a target.
"Short of having armed guards watching the bridges and signs, nothing will keep the graffiti off," said Dennis Cole of Gilroy, who takes Caltrain to work in Santa Clara. "If you think the highways are bad, believe me, as anyone who takes the train knows, almost every foot of anything next to the tracks has been tagged."
Police ask drivers to call 911 if they see taggers. The Department of Motor Vehicles says if convicted of vandalism, including graffiti, the court can suspend a person's driver's license for up to two years.
If taggers who do not have a license are convicted, the courts can delay the issuance of one for up to three years from the date they are eligible to drive.
Contact Gary Richards at 408-920-5335.