Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why the orange bridge isn't orange . . .

Ask for directions in Port Alberni, and likely someone will say “just past the orange bridge.” Now, when you’re half way to Tofino and still looking for the famous “orange” bridge, chalk it up to one of life’s little vicissitudes.

The orange bridge isn’t orange any more.

It used to be. Old timers and those ‘in the know’ still refer to the bridge across the Somas River by its insider name. Some think it’s cute; others find it annoying. I found it puzzling.

Intrepid researcher I am, I had to know why the orange bridge is grey. My query to the province’s senior engineer in bridge design and construction standards brought a prompt reply.

Before 1995, when bridge design was centralized in Victoria (our fair capital), bridge colours were chosen by the Director of Bridges. Oh, I love that title!

After 1995, it became part of the Regional Bridge Engineers’ duties. Colours were chosen “both to be distinctive and to blend in with the environment.”

Newer bridges made from weathering steel don’t need painting, but older bridges do. Generally the same colour was used in repainting so as “not to disrupt local reference” unless there was a reason not to.

Ah, what could that reason possibly be, you ask? Well, one of our Regional Engineers says a former Minister requested orange not be used as a bridge colour. And that may be why the Port Alberni bridge was recoated grey.

I got a giggle out of the “not to disrupt local reference” comment. No fear, the former Minister can rest easy. That coat of grey paint has had no effect whatsoever.

In local reference, “the orange bridge” lives on.



  1. Long live the grey orange bridge!

  2. Sounds like the orange bridge should be repainted orange! I like the idea that there's a bright color, rather than dull grey out there in nature.

  3. Pen,

    no matter what the colour the "Orange" Bridge will always be Orange or maybe just maybe Red?


  4. Thanks for the comments!
    Yes, Marie: long live the orange bridge, we Port folk feel just that way.
    Geri, there have been attempts to get the bridge repainted orange, but you know 'the powers that be' and all that.
    And Dennis, I thought you had to be one of the 'old' ones to know the bridge was once red? You must have heard that from somebody else, cuz we's too young!
    Cheers all . .

  5. NDP ( sorry ministry of Highways) orange , no other reason that all the bridges were changed ,or most were , including the sea-buses.


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