Sunday, June 24, 2001
Pick a color, any color
Cincinnati red? Kentucky blue? Bengals orange? What color should the Roebling Suspension Bridge be? Owned by Kentucky, but cherished by both sides of the river, the graceful span over the Ohio is due for a $6 million paint job. It's been blue since 1980. Originally the hue was a bold University of Kentucky BIG BLUE, but it has since faded to a pastel North Carolina baby blue.
When the bridge was built in 1867 it was an earthy ''Spanish brown,'' according to Gerry Roberto, president of the Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Committee. ''That was sort of an ochre,'' he said. An ugly ochre at that. Many people winced after the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recently tried to match it when painting the metal steps going up the tower on the Kentucky end of the bridge. The shade bore a stomach-churning resemblance to ballpark mustard. So a benign, sandy tan has been tentatively chosen instead.
Mr. Roberto's committee isn't so sure about that shade either. His group is made up of 120 bridge lovers who pay $15 per year to belong. They're dedicated to preserving the history and beauty of Mr. Roebling's creation. They raised money privately to install the lights on the span, and they make sure crisp, new flags always fly from its towers. They are always looking for more members and donations to the trust fund that pays to keep the lights burning and the flags flying.
During an annual meeting last week, committee members cruised the river and took a vote on the color as they passed under the bridge. ''A number of our Kentucky members are attached to Kentucky blue . . . but the most votes were for verdigris,'' Mr. Roberto said.
Verdigris is the greenish-blue patina that develops over time on copper, brass or bronze statues before pigeons get to them.
Blue, blue-green or sandy tan are but a few of the shades available. In 1890 the bridge was painted black and white with red trimming; later it spent several decades coated in a foamy green. The Enquirer art department used computer graphics to test drive a few more treatments.
The transportation cabinet is still open to suggestions, said spokeswoman Robin Jenkins. She agreed to ask 'What color should we paint the Roebling?'' on the department's Web site at www.kytc.state.ky.us. You can also mail suggestions to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, P.O. Box 17130, Covington, KY 41017.
So let them hear from you. After all, Kentucky may technically own the bridge, but they know it really belongs to all of us.