Two months after volunteers applied the first fresh paint to a 20-year-old mural on a U.S. 250 train underpass, the gateway to Waynesboro is still faded and tagged with graffiti.

One figure on the wall captures the mural's recent history: The face is partially faded and slashed with green graffiti but bright in the few spots where volunteers started a revamp.

Authorities shooed away those volunteers in June after permission to paint was not properly obtained from Buckingham Branch Railroad and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

"Unfortunately, we're not poised to move ahead immediately," Waynesboro City Manager Mike Hamp said Friday.

The city is the latest entity entangled in the project, which raises liability concerns because it would put painters just 3 feet from a bustling highway and atop ladders near the active rails running over the bridge.

The project began with a bout of phone tag between volunteer Ron Hiserman of Waynesboro and five government and civic agencies. None could identify who could provide permission for the project.

Buckingham Branch and VDOT were identified as having applicable policies.

"[Hiserman] did not have approval from us or VDOT," said Gale Wilson, vice president of operations for the Dillwyn-based railroad. "[The paperwork] is for liability and continued maintenance. VDOT has to be involved as well for safety issues."

The railroad and VDOT agree to permit the project if a government backs it in contracts.

Hence, Hamp.

"Because the overpass is not located in the corporate limits of the city, I'm a little reluctant to enter into the agreement," he said.

Augusta County officials might have to consider the project after all, despite being non-committal when Hiserman called months ago.

Meanwhile, volunteers' spirits are dampened but not extinguished. Hiserman almost returned donated paint but was persuaded to hold it. City tourism officials back the idea. And the Shenandoah Valley Art Center plans to gather painters.

"We're ready to go. We've got paint, we've got brushes, we've got volunteers," said the art center's executive director, Piper Groves.

Twenty years ago this summer, the East Augusta Chamber of Commerce asked artist Mark Cline to design and paint a mural at the bridge.

The active mainline track that runs over it carries about six trains per day as part of a network running from Richmond to Clifton Forge, W.Va., according to Buckingham Branch.

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