Slow progress as rail bridge graffiti concerns continue
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 13:19

Dave Patro spearheads painting effort

by Nicole Rodman

    For months, community leaders have been making their voices heard — urging action regarding the graffiti-covered railroad bridge than runs over Merritt Boulevard between 1-695 and North Point Road.
    Now, the problem may be one step closer to being resolved.
     For Dave Patro, deputy director of community relations for North Point Police Precinct 12 and president of the North Point Village Civic Association, the issue has become a crusade.
    Patro has been working with both Baltimore County and bridge owner Northfolk Southern in an effort to get the bridge repainted.
    While Norfolk Southern has acknowledged the graffiti, the company has refused to repaint the bridge, citing cost and the fact that the graffiti does not impact the structural integrity of the bridge.
    “The cost of taking care of all the graffiti that appears is astronomical,” Norfolk Southern public relations manager David Pidgeon told The Eagle in January. “It’s important to remember that our top priority is ensuring the safe movement of trains over those bridges.”
    Though Norfolk Southern has refused to paint the bridge or pay for the painting to be done, Patro has continued to work with the company, hoping to get permission for community members or county workers to paint the bridge.

Patro has also been working with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s office.
    According to Patro, the county signaled its intention to paint the bridge if permission could be obtained from the railroad.
    On May 9, Patro received an e-mail from Norfolk Southern system engineer David Wyatt noting that the company “has no objections to allowing employees of the County or City or a civic group sponsored by the County or City [to] paint the rail structure” provided certain conditions are met.
    According to Wyatt, the work must be done under a formal agreement between Norfolk Southern and Baltimore County and at no cost to the railroad.
    In addition, any work done must comply with both the Norfolk Southern Railway Specification For Field Painting of Bridges guide as well as the Special Provisions For Protection of Railway Interests.
    These guidelines detail how the painting must be done and lay out procedures to ensure that the work does not interfere with the operations of the railroad.
    Wyatt also asked for contact information so that the railroad could begin working with Baltimore County to finalize an agreement.
    For her part, Baltimore County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler has indicated that the county has not yet been able to reach a representative from Norfolk Southern regarding an agreement to paint the bridge.
    With no formal agreement in place, the county is going ahead with legal procedures in an attempt to force Norfolk Southern to paint the bridge.
    The first step is a correction notice, which the Baltimore County Bureau of Code Enforcement and Inspection has already issued to the company.
    “If they don’t respond, a citation will be issued, then a hearing will be held at which Norfolk Southern Railway will be ordered to paint the bridge,” Kobler explained.
    “If they refuse, then we will have the legal authority to paint it. We are committed to getting it painted, but we must follow the law.”
    When asked to clarify, Kobler explained that the legal authority to paint the bridge would come from the Baltimore County Code.
    In an e-mail to Patro, Bryan Sheppard, special assistant to Kamenetz, signaled the county’s resolve to see the project through to completion.
    “It will get painted, and I will try to get it done as quickly as possible,” Sheppard told Patro.
    For his part, Patro is glad that the county has committed to getting the bridge painted, though he is somewhat frustrated by the slow progress of the project.
    He said he hopes the work will be done in time for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of North Point in September.