Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shades of Gray

by guest blogger Jamie Holter

I learned this week that we paint a lot of things Washington Gray which seemed redundant to me especially this time of year when so much of the western half of this state is just flat out gray from skyline to skyline, sun up to sundown.

I was researching the new Aurora Seismic project. We will wrap earthquake protection around columns that support the bridge… and then paint the columns Washington Gray.

Apparently, concrete comes in all different colors and when we match old bridges to new, current work to decades-old work, and even concrete strengths (4000 PSI vs. 10,000 PSI) the grays don't match. We paint the structures the same gray so they do. It also allows us to repaint over graffiti quickly and inexpensively and leaves a more aesthetically pleasing look.

But it's not all Washington Gray. We use Mt. St. Helens Gray when we want to spice things up a bit or blend in. Noise walls that sit off the roadway in foliage get Mt. St. Helens Gray so they're less noticeable. It's all about gray camouflage.

Washington Gray - Used for bridges, concrete columns, walls that support ramps, and noise walls near the road.
Mount St Helens Gray - Used primarily in the greater Seattle area for noise walls a little farther away from the freeway near foliage.
Baker Gray - I-405 corridor - provides dark gray accents as a contrast and makes structures visually more interesting
Cascade Green - I-405 corridor – provides green color to bridges on the I-405 corridor

Mt. Baker Gray and Cascade Green on I-405
Locals along the I-405 corridor wanted something different still. They wanted Mt. Baker Gray and Cascade Green. Snoqualmie Pass and North Spokane corridor folks wanted something warmer than gray, something taupe-ier (is that even a word?) I don't blame them, though. By February, a taupy overpass is cheaper than a trip to Hawaii for every Spokane resident.

We aren't alone in this context sensitivity. Many states do it. In the Southwest, they opt for more vibrant colors – pinks and yellows. California chooses adobe. I guess we've learned to love gray!

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