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‘Love Locks’ Showing Up on Key Bridge Railings

Update on 8/7/14 at 11:30 a.m. — D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders says the love locks will be removed from Key Bridge today. “Locks are being removed because we don’t want to establish a precedence where our structures could become polluted with these types of campaigns. Also, it could jeopardize the functionality of the railings,” said Sanders.

Earlier: Lovers have started keeping their love under lock and key by latching padlocks bearing their names to the Key Bridge’s railings.

These “love locks” are meant to memorialize romantic relationships, but they can cause damage to fences and railings. At the Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris, thousands of couples latched love locks to a fence along the bridge. It was so weighed down by the locks that the fencing collapsed in June.

“This is the first time we’ve encountered this,” D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders said.

Last week, there were three combination locks on the railing on the left side of the Key Bridge (as seen from Arlington) and 45 combination and padlocks on the right side’s railing. Many of the locks had couples’ names or initials on them, and some included an anniversary date or an additional sentiment.

One lock says: “alex & andi 26 november 2011,” with an engraving of wedding bands.

With love locks, the owners lock them to a railing, fence or lamppost, discard the key, and hope their love will last as long as their lock.

Love locks have also been seen on the Hague Bridge in Norfolk, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin, the Luzhkov Bridge in Moscow and the Ponte Milvio in Rome.

New York City officials claimed last May that the more than 5,000 locks on the Brooklyn Bridge put it at risk for damages, the New York Daily News wrote, and endangered motorists driving under the pedestrian walkway.

According to the Irish Times, last February in Dublin, city officials put signs on the Ha’Penny Bridge to dissuade couples from putting locks there. Transportation officials removed approximately 661 pounds of locks from the bridge the previous year.

After Rome removed 825 pounds of locks from Ponte Milvio‘s lampposts in 2007, the BBC reported, the mayor of Rome imposed a 50-euro fine (about $67) on anyone who put a padlock on that location.

There are far fewer locks on the Key Bridge than those other bridges, seemingly not yet enough to cause damage. Sanders currently is looking into measures his department may take to remove the locks, and is researching which D.C. laws may change this practice.

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