Ross: Graffiti along the ‘gateway to Seattle’ is embarrassing

Nov 18, 2022, 8:03 AM | Updated: 9:57 am
Seattle roadside graffiti...
Graffiti has been a recurring issue along Seattle's interstate highways. (KIRO Newsradio, Chris Sullivan)
(KIRO Newsradio, Chris Sullivan)

Probably the most famous Interstate 5 ramps are the tunnel ramps to and from Mercer Street downtown at Exit 167– the gateway to Seattle Center. If you drive it on a typical day, you’re only in the tunnel for about 20 seconds, but on my last trip a week ago to a show at McCaw Hall, traffic was backed up… and so I got a good long look.

The white tiles, cracked and covered with graffiti, the trash and car fragments along the roadway – it felt like being trapped in a New York City subway men’s room. An elongated, unmaintained New York City subway men’s room.

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And it is low-quality graffiti – whoever did it was totally phoning it in. The graffiti along Interstate 90 may be annoying, but at least it shows some skill and dedication. The Mercer Street graffiti is embarrassing.

And what really hurts – is that this is the gateway to the Space Needle, Climate Pledge Arena, the Opera, the Rep, Seattle Children’s Theatre, the Chihuly Museum, MoPop, MOHAI, KCTS, Google headquarters, UW Medicine, the Allen Brain Institute – and yet before you get to any of those places you’re forced through this Tunnel of Horrors!

And, to the graffiti apologists who argue that this is “art” and these taggers need an outlet – show some real respect and rent them an art gallery! Allowing this decor along the Mercer Street exit just reinforces the message that graffiti is the language of the toilet stall.

Time to put this stuff out of its misery. We’ve tried painting it over – that doesn’t work. So, I’ll say it again: put up artificial vegetation. You can buy manufactured ivy or artificial boxwood wholesale – and yes, it’s pricey – $1,700 for a four-foot by six-foot hedge, but it repels the vandals.

I think it should be installed on every retaining wall -– but if that’s too expensive, at least do the Mercer Street tunnel as a pilot project. Fake vegetation is permanent and fireproof, it’ll provide a little noise suppression, and it’s green! Like the Emerald City! Okay, it’s a little tacky. But at least it says, “Welcome To Seattle.” Instead of “Get Me Out Of Here!”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Graffiti along the ‘gateway to Seattle’ is embarrassing