‘Graffiti Highway’ Concerns in Centralia

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CONYNGHAM TOWNSHIP -- Part of Route 61 in Centralia has been closed to vehicles for more than 20 years. Still, "Graffiti Highway," as it's known, continues to be a popular spot for people touring Centralia.

But now, PennDOT is cracking down on trespassing.

PennDOT officials say despite putting up "No Trespassing" signs, people walking on Graffiti Highway is a problem that is getting worse.

The roadway was closed because it was determined to be unsafe. Even so, many of the people who spend time there think Graffiti Highway is perfectly safe to walk on.

A popular tourist destination in Columbia County has no stores and only a few buildings. Centralia has a fire that's been burning underneath it since the 1960s, and it gets a lot of attention.

"A city that's been burning, technically underground, but been burning for what, 50 years?" Kyle Hughey said.

A group of friends drove two hours from Philadelphia.

"Solely to come to Centralia," Ken Eberle said.

Even though there is not much to see in Centralia, something people look forward to is what is known as "Graffiti Highway." It is a section of Route 61 that was closed about 20 years ago because PennDOT declared it unsafe. Since then, it's become a popular spot to showcase art and take walks.

"Graffiti on the ground where nobody's going to complain about it as opposed to on somebody's house," Eberle said.

Now, PennDOT is cracking down on trespassing on "Graffiti Highway." PennDOT officials do not want people walking there for safety reasons, but that has not stopped people.

"I think it's something fun for people to do, and it gets people up to this town," Brooke Kissinger said.

The people Newswatch 16 spoke with say they understand why vehicles aren't allowed on "Graffiti Highway," but they believe people should be allowed there.

"I think walking on it is safe. Obviously, driving on it isn't, but walking I don't think is really that big of a problem," Kissinger said.

PennDOT officials do not believe ripping up Graffiti Highway would prevent people from walking on it because even with the pavement removed, the original highway path is accessible. There is a petition going around on Facebook to keep "Graffiti Highway" open. It currently has almost 6,000 signatures in just two days.

Ken Eberle of Philadelphia says he will sign it.

"I do not see why people should not be allowed to walk on it," Eberle said.

A few weeks ago, eight people were cited by state police for riding ATVs on "Graffiti Highway." More than 30 people were also warned against trespassing and voluntarily left the area according to troopers.

In 2015, state police cracked down on people spray painting in that area but did not say how many people they cited since then.


  • Columbia County

    I live by Centralia and “graffiti highway.” My belief is the government came in and told the residents that it was now unsafe to live there because of the fire under the town. My understanding and what wasn’t publicized was that the residents owned the mineral rights to the coal under their homes. My opinion is the state wanted the people out, not because of the fire, because when the residents finally left, they could come in and bulldoze the town and profit from the coal.

    • Axia

      Right, because miners will love to be able to mine in an area with an active coal seam fire! You are a genius, glad you figured it out! I suppose you’re under the belief that coal is a sustainable resource to use well into the 22nd century as well?

      • I Am The Antipope

        The land would become an open pit mine.

        Coal is used in steel production.

        But you liberals who never worked a real job would not know such things.

  • Ron

    If it’s not even safe to walk on, why on Earth would they even consider putting someone’s life at risk by setting them on there with heavy equipment to rip it up???

  • pa. tastes like poo poo!

    A burned out coal slave town and a graffiti covered abandoned highway is now considered an attraction. Pa. Is such a smit sammich. I can’t take it anymore, I’m moving to either Beirut or New Jersey to improve my quality of life.

    • Valerie F.

      Every place on the planet has some strange bit of history. If a once bustling coal town which now has an underground mine fire bothers you, then by all means, LEAVE! If you don’t want to go see Graffiti Road, then don’t go. The old town has a lot of history. Who are you to care about what other people find interesting? There are all sorts of odd things to see in the USA. I’m certain that you haven’t seen any kitchsy tourist attraction because that’s obviously beneath your stature. I suggest you opt for Beirut as a new home. I’m sure their history isn’t at all as exciting as Centralia and Graffiti Road. Seeing as you can no longer deal with Pennsylvania being a “smit sammich,” please relinquish your American passport upon your arrival to Beirut. By doing that, you’ll definitely be helping to make America great again! I wish you the best of everything in your new life overseas!!

      • Tom

        Why’d you have to attack Beirut? It was (and in many areas still is) a beautiful city, it’s being destroyed by mythological warriors. You could’ve said something much more cold and unforgiving like Pyongyang.

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    Come on, let the boys play. It’s either here or on the side of the local supermarket.

    This country always has to be “cracking down” on something.

    It’s a 20 year old abandoned highway. Who cares?

    Modern day art.

    Maybe Penndot should worry more about all the potholes in the currently used roads than graffiti on a road that’s been abandoned for 20 years.

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