There’s some good news for those looking to explore the Graffiti Highway in Centralia, PA.
Earlier this year, PennDOT vacated the right-of-way containing the abandoned section of Route 61 that is commonly known as the Graffiti Highway. This damaged section of the road was closed in 1993 due to the ongoing mine fire. An alternative route was later developed, taking traffic around the old right-of-way and providing a vital connection between Aristes and Ashland.
For the last decade, there was little police presence in Centralia, Pennsylvania. Visitors came and went without interference. They explored the town’s decaying roads, overgrown strip mines, and vacant lots.
All of that changed in 2016 when PennDOT became concerned about the liability incurred from allowing people on the Graffiti Highway. “No Trespassing” signs were quickly posted to keep people and vehicles off of the abandoned road.
One specific incident—a planned Barbie Power Wheel racing event—caused PennDOT to contact State Police and request that they patrol the area for trespassers. As a result, several people were cited and visitors were once again reminded to obey the “No Trespassing” signs that had been posted.
However, after further reviewing its Graffiti Highway policy, PennDOT made a surprising decision. In February of 2018, the agency determined the best course of action was to dissolve the right-of-way containing the Graffiti Highway and return the land to the adjacent property owners. The largest of these owners is the Pitreal Corporation, which is part of Pagnotti Enterprises in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
What does all of this mean for the thousands of visitors to Centralia each year?
According to PennDOT, State Police will no longer be patrolling the area unless this is specifically requested by one of the Graffiti Highway’s new owners, such as the Pitreal Corporation. It is also entirely possible that one of the landholders may choose to fence off or dismantle the abandoned road too. Only time will tell.
The Graffiti Highway is a popular tourist destination in Columbia County and one of the most notable reminders of Centralia PA’s mine fire disaster. If you plan on visiting Centralia this summer, remember to respect the property rights of those who still live there, properly dispose of all trash, and keep an eye peeled for ground subsidence.