QUEEN: Tom in Lafayette wrote in recently to ask why the Golden Gate Bridge constantly gets painted, since he had not observed other bridges getting the same treatment. Is it just to look pretty, he asked?
Not surprisingly, this raised the hackles of many longtime Bay Area residents to whom the bridge is a symbol of everything we love about this place. Also, the Queen was slightly unclear in her response; here's a beautifully penned response from a Loyal Subject that sets it all straight.
COMMUTER: The Golden Gate Bridge is subjected to more elements (fog, strong winds, salt air, rain) than most bridges, which can cause corrosion and rust. To combat those elements, you have to have a good coat of paint. The painting of the bridge is a full-time operation, but it is not painted from one end to the other. Crews are constantly inspecting the bridge to locate areas where the paint has broken down and repairing those spots. This is an ongoing, never-ending process.
They do not paint the bridge just to make it pretty. Once construction was under way, there were plenty of opinions as to what the final color should be, from black towers to completely gray, to a naval request of a black and yellow stripe pattern so their ships could better see the bridge in heavy fog.
The red-orange color we see today was not selected, but rather an epiphany.
When the steel was shipped to the site, it was covered in a primer coat (red lead) to protect it from corrosion. As the red lead color aged during the construction of the bridge, it gave the bridge a burnt orange color that many thought blended well with the surrounding hills. This color was accepted by all and became known as International Orange.
Al Del Grande, Brentwood
QUEEN: Thanks, Loyal Subject Al. And now, another bridge question:
COMMUTER: Following up on the topic of bridge painting, what about that bridge between the two Benicia bridges, the steel railroad bridge? It looks about as rusted as any steel structure can get. Many commuting via Amtrak between the Bay Area and Sacramento cross this bridge regularly and one has to wonder how this rusted erector set stays together. What type of ongoing maintenance does the railroad do? They just about never paint it, that's for sure.
QUEEN: Art, the bridge in question is not ornamental but it sure is useful. Rest assured, Union Pacific Railroad regularly does metal fatigue testing and performs any work necessary. Her Majesty agrees with you that it is no Golden Gate Bridge, but let's give it some love, because it gets the job done.
Commuter: On a daily basis, I see an average of three vehicles in my city with expired registrations. Considering the kind of bad financial shape we're in, seems to me this could be a source of considerable revenue for the city and the state. To whom do we report these non-renewed violators?
QUEEN: There is no mechanism for you to report a vehicle driving around with an expired registration. The DMV system generates a late notice automatically if fees are late or not paid, sending that notice to the person who owns the car; so the agency is already aware of the situation. If the fees aren't paid, the DMV will turn the bill over to the Franchise Tax Board for the collection. That process is very aggressive, even including wage garnishment in extreme cases. Law enforcement officers very definitely do pull people over for expired registration stickers, too, and people have also been known to return to their parked cars and discover such a citation.
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Contact the Queen at The Commuter Page, c/o The Times, 7677 Oakport St., Oakland, CA 94621, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her at ContraCostaTimes.com/queen-of-the-road.