By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The agency that operates the Townsends Inlet Bridge is developing plans to remove graffiti that has been scrawled on the underside of the span – and to keep it off with the help of the Sea Isle City police.
“Once we repair it, we don’t want it coming back,” said Lewis Donofrio, chief engineer for the Cape May County Bridge Commission.
During the bridge commission’s monthly board meeting Thursday, Donofrio noted that the graffiti seems to have gotten progressively worse over the past 10 years.
“In prior inspections years ago, we didn’t notice nearly as much graffiti,” he said. “I would have to say it has increased, but that’s over quite a bit of time.”
SeaIsleNews.com revealed in a story last month how spray-painting graffiti artists have used the tall concrete support piers underneath the bridge as a gigantic canvas of sorts for their work.
The way it is built, the Townsends Inlet Bridge hovers over the beach in the southern tip of Sea Isle, making it an easy target for graffiti artists who simply walk out to the piers.
Donofrio explained that graffiti is periodically removed by Cape May County cleanup crews, but more of it follows later on. Currently, there is no schedule for removing the latest batch of graffiti.
“I don’t have an exact timeframe on the cleanup,” Donofrio said. “We need to develop (a plan) on how to clean it up and how to cost-effectively clean it up without doing any harm to the bridge.”
Donofrio also said he has been speaking with engineers at other transportation agencies to find out how they handle their graffiti problems.
Moreover, he is planning to reach out to the Sea Isle Police Department to discuss ways of preventing the graffiti artists from coming back.
“We’re not looking in terms of surveillance, just maybe a little more foot patrol down there in the busy seasons,” Donofrio said.
The Townsends Inlet Bridge connects Sea Isle with Avalon. Donofrio believes that Townsends Inlet has the worst graffiti problem among the five toll bridges operated by the Cape May County Bridge Commission along the Ocean Drive.
“I went and took a look at it. I had seen it before, but there is quite a bit of graffiti under there,” he said of his visit to the bridge this week.
He said he also discovered discarded trash that indicated “there’s been quite a bit of drinking activity below the bridge.”