An abandoned portion of Route 61 commonly known as Graffiti Highway will be a thing of the past in Centralia, according to a borough official.
Tom Hynoski, the secretary, fire chief and EMA director for Centralia, confirmed on Monday that the popular tourist destination is being covered with dirt by land owner Pagnotti Enterprises. The project is expected to be be finished within three days.
“They got sick of the complaints and the liability,” said Hynoski. “People steal stuff, they spray paint in the cemetery, it’s about time something gets done.”
Since Gov. Wolf ordered non-essential businesses to shut down and issued a stay at home order for Pennsylvania residents, Hynoski said the area has seen an influx of people, more than usual. The abandoned roadway has become a popular tourist destination for its smoking cracked asphalt and hundreds of spraypainted words and images.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Hynoski. “Oh my God, it’s crazy.”
Hynoski said he and other officials have been back and forth with the coal company to discuss ways to keep the visitors off the highway. State troopers have been patrolling more too and chased away at least 50 people on Monday morning alone, he said.
Centralia, located in Columbia County just a few miles outside Mount Carmel in Northumberland County, is perhaps Pennsylvania’s most famous ghost town after an underground mine fire started in 1962. Only a handful of houses and residents, the municipal building, a few cemeteries, and the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church just over the borough line still remain.
Otherwise, there are crumbling stone foundations, empty lots and an old portion of Route 61 commonly known as Graffiti Highway.
In 2018, PennDOT vacated and turned over the .74-mile stretch of Graffiti Highway in Centralia and Conyngham Township to Pitreal Corp, a coal mining company and subsidiary of Pagnotti Enterprises in Wilkes-Barre. Twenty-five years ago, PennDOT closed a portion of the road and constructed a new road around the old portion.