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DOT Green

Have you ever been on a roadtrip and noticed that a vast majority of bridges that you encounter are green? This is not a coincidence and the particular green has even become known as DOT green, as in the Department of Transportation.

The tradition took hold in Oregon in the 1930’s. Two engineers, David B. Steinman and Conde McCullough, submitted a proposal to construct a bridge over the Willamette River. The county council was positive on the plan except for one aspect. The local airfield demanded that the massive span be painted in orange and black stripes in an attempt to spare aviators from crashing into it. Although the bridge was in close proximity to an airfield the county council was not keen on having the natural beauty of the rolling Oregon hills to be polluted by such an eyesore, and neither were the designers.

It was then that McCullough and Steinman developed a compromise. McCullough had recently completed a smaller bridge in another area of Oregon that had received an award for the beauty of its design. However, there was a small problem when it came time for the award ceremony. It was discovered that the drafting plans on which the committee had based the decision for the award the bridge appeared in a shade known as verde green and in reality the bridge had been painted black. McCullough quickly acquired enough paint and the crew to change the color of the bridge before the award plaque was bolted to the structure.

This quick color change gave the two engineers the idea to propose that the bridge over the Willamette be painted the same color. Verde green is a light patina green, bright enough that aviators would not mistake the bridge for the horizon but mundane enough to compliment the surrounding countryside. The council approved the decision.

As the Works Project Administration began a nationwide infrastructure boom McCullough and Steinman found themselves in involved in more and more bridge construction projects across the country. As their designs spread across the country so did verde green. By the time the interstate highway system was constructed in the 1950’s the tradition of green bridges was so pervasive that the color was now known as Department of Transportation Green.

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