Caltrans hoping to remove catwalks from freeway signs

Caltrans says it is actively working to have catwalks removed from freeway signs across District 7 -- Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Standstill traffic is no surprise in Los Angeles. But it is a shock when it’s caused by a shirtless protester. That’s what happened in June 2018 when a dancing man protested by hanging posters from the 110 freeway sign’s catwalk. It snarled morning traffic for hours.

It happens to be the exact same sign that someone tagged and spray-painted sometime before Monday morning, covering all the arrows and exits for drivers on a vital sign during the morning rush hour.

“We have the four-level connector there,” said Eric Menjivar from Caltrans. “So that’s one of our most important connectors.”

The sign is so important, while Caltrans usually prefers to clean them at night, it was forced to clean up the graffiti before the afternoon rush.

“The sign up there is actually one of our newer signs with a protective film that we can easily clean off, depending on the paint that’s been used,” said Menjivar. “Usually we can get that done in a few hours and go about our day.”

But sometimes that’s only a temporary solution. So Caltrans wants to try something new.

Using money collected from the SB1 gas tax, the department plans to hire contractors to remove catwalks from those newer signs. They are highly reflective, so they don't require attached lights. It saves the California DOT money on utilities, but it also prevents anyone from climbing onto signs in the first place.

“The main motivation for us to upgrade signs is a sustainability practice," Menjivar added, “But the trade-off is that it becomes a graffiti deterrent.”

It’s a win for the environment and taxpayers’ pockets.

The department still needs to bid the contract, but officials estimate the project should be completed within two years.

Caltrans says they send about $2 million each year to remove graffiti.