Friday, June 18, 2004

Bridge rusts amid debate over color

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Rust covering supports on the cable sheaths of the Suspension Bridge is visible to pedestrians walking cross the Ohio River on the east sidewalk.
Photos by PATRICK REDDY/The Cincinnati Enquirer
Covington Mayor Butch Callery says it's time to end the years-old debate over what color to repaint the Roebling Suspension Bridge. He just wants to see the historic span get a fresh coat.

Callery has sent a letter to Clay Bailey, secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, asking him to once again make the painting of the Suspension Bridge a priority by including the project in the state's six-year plan. The state had planned to paint the bridge in 1998, but delayed the job during the reconstruction of Cincinnati's Fort Washington Way.

The ensuing debate over what color to paint the bridge gave Kentucky officials more excuses to delay the job, Callery believes.

In 2001, the Covington City Commission adopted a resolution asking the state to paint the historic landmark "Kentucky Wildcat blue.'' Others lobbied for the current light blue, Spanish brown (believed to be the bridge's original color), and a shade in between the current color and Kentucky blue. An unscientific survey of bridge walkers in 2002 found that verdigris, a bluish shade of green, was the favored color.

"The Suspension Bridge was last painted in 1980, and it's starting to rust," Callery said. "That's not right. This bridge is historic. It was the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a tremendous asset to the city of Covington and the state of Kentucky."

Although it may not be a pretty sight, the peeling paint has not affected the structural integrity of the 139-year-old span, said Rob Hans, a state bridge engineer.

Hans said Palmer Engineering of Lexington found the bridge to be in good condition during a routine inspection last week. "But every year it goes without repainting, you're going to get a little more of it exposed and a little more rusting."

The $6 million it would cost to paint the Suspension Bridge represents about one-third of the state's annual $18 million budget for bridge maintenance, Hans said.

David Kratt, assistant state highway engineer, said the chances money will be set aside in the foreseeable future to repaint the Suspension Bridge are "very, very slim."


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