Graffiti removal costs state and taxpayers thousands

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A troubling trend on major thoroughfares, with more and more graffiti being reported along interstates and state highways. The cleanup though, is coming out of state funds.

For five years now, TDOT officials say graffiti has been on the rise, costing the state and taxpayers thousands of dollars yearly.

The problem plagues our roadway, cleaned up day in, day out by state employees.

“It is dangerous,” said Katherine Schulte, TDOT Spokesperson. “People are risking their life to go up there and put graffiti on them. It’s also illegal, it’s very illegal, so it’s just a bad idea in general.”

That bad idea is catching on. Crews were hard at work late last month cleaning up a sign along I-40 east in Nashville.

“We’re not trying to inconvenience the public, but we’ve got a job to do,” said Robert Jones, Highway Marketing Supervisor while on scene. “This is gonna be a six or seven hour process.”

The work is routinely done on road signs, bridges, and underpasses.

TDOT officials estimate that since July of last year, at least $86,000 has been spent on graffiti removal alone. This doesn’t include cases where signs had to be replaced, which can cost thousands of dollars each.

“We use a jail graffiti remover, hoping it removes the paint,” noted Jones. “This is a big inconvenience for everybody, especially the state.”

The state is now calling on driver’s. Should you see something, say something.

They hope tips could help stymie these highway vandals, before cleanup closes another lane.

“We really are asking people if they see graffiti happening in the act, to please call local law enforcement to report it,” said Schulte.

“It’d be nice if somebody’d see them do it, and turn them in,” added Jones.

Anyone wishing to report graffiti, can email TDOT at, or call the maintenance office at 615-350-4400.