The new sound walls along MoPac are designed to reduce traffic noise from the highway going into surrounding neighborhoods, but some wonder if the new construction could become a target for vandals.
You’ve probably seen the blank walls stretching along the side of MoPac.
They seem like prime targets for graffiti artists, but so far, it hasn’t been that big of a problem. Steve Pustelnyk of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority says there have been a few cases of graffiti on the sound walls since construction began about two years ago, but most were painted over within a day.
“Graffiti is a plague in Austin, and we realize it’s going to be something that’s going to be a challenge for us moving forward to ensure that we get on it as quick as we can, get it painted over, and discourage people from wasting their paint, and our paint, in the MoPac corridor,” Pustelnyk says.
During construction, the contractor is responsible for cleaning up any graffiti. Once the project is complete, however, the Mobility Authority will take over the upkeep, with the help of funding from the Texas Department of Transportation.
“The people who tend to commit those crimes become frustrated if their graffiti is constantly painted over. And, so, we believe by being aggressive, that will discourage them from being active in our corridor and they’ll look for other places,” he says. “And also, we will have cameras up and down the corridor, so if it’s possible to prosecute folks who are committing these crimes, then we would certainly pursue that.”
Other Austin neighborhoods have embraced graffiti, even commissioned it as public art – like Daniel Johnston’s “Hi, How Are You” frog on Guadalupe, or the “I love you so much” wall on South Congress. Pustelnyk says that won’t be the case along MoPac.
“We do not view graffiti as public art,” he says. “If graffiti is approved and painted in an approved location, then it is art. But, if it is put in a place where it is not authorized, then it is nothing other than criminal trespass and criminal activity.”
The Mobility Authority expects to have the north end of the MoPac project complete by June. Pustelnyk says they’re aiming to have the entire roadway – including the new toll lanes – open to traffic by end of the year.