By Kiet Do

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — One of the Bay Area’s ugliest bridges just received a facelift. It has a fresh coat of paint, and it looks decent, for now. But graffiti is already creeping in, and soon taggers will be back with a vengeance.

Since KPIX 5 first started covering the train overcrossing at 13th Street and Highway 101 in San Jose a year ago, it’s been the same thing: Repaint, tag, and repeat. But why?

The answer may be found a few miles away at the Caltrain Bridge above Interstate 280 near Bird Avenue. Last year, the infamous tag “RIP TOMMY” stayed on the green bridge for months before it was cleaned up. It’s been a year, and it remains spotless.

It turns out, of Caltrain’s 40 something bridges, the bridge on 280 is the most fortified of them all, the Fort Knox of bridges. There is not one, but three fences blocking taggers from access, each one more risky than the last.

“We’re hoping that this is a significant disincentive for anyone looking to become a graffiti artist,” said Jayme Ackemann of Caltrain.

That beefy third fence is key in keeping taggers off the catwalk. On the other bridge, taggers get around a short stubby fence with barbed wire.

The 13th Street bridge has no razor wire, while Caltrain has doubled down on the razor wire on the 280 bridge.

While YouTube has dozens of videos showing how easy it is to jump over barbed wire, razor wire just doesn’t work like that. First off, there’s nowhere to grab onto. And even if you do, once you apply pressure, it increases the risk of getting cut. Perhaps most importantly, it just looks scary.

“So far, it’s been successful and we hope that it continues to be successful, but if not, we’ll look at other solutions in the future,” Ackemann said.

Caltrain said it has taken years of trial and error and more than $50,000 in security upgrades to keep their bridge clean.

San Jose City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo helped organize last year’s cleanup of the ugliest bridge.

“We need to bring out whatever tools we have to keep the taggers off the bridge,” Liccardo said.

“I support any solution that keeps kids with too much testosterone off those bridges and ensures that we don’t have tagging all over our freeways.”


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