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In Bridge Vote, Sacramentans Go for the Gold

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

They came, they cast ballots, they colored a bridge.

In a most unusual election, residents of the capital region turned to the Internet to select a new paint scheme for the Tower Bridge, Sacramento’s lofty and scenic gateway.

More than 43,000 residents cast ballots during the past month, selecting from three color schemes displayed in glistening renditions on the Caltrans Web site. The final pick? (drum roll, please):

Glittering gold.

With 48% of the vote, gold topped a green-silver-gold combination (38%). The burgundy-silver-gold mix trailed in third at 13%.

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“This is not Florida; we’re not going to have a recount,” deadpanned Jeff Morales, California Department of Transportation director and the brains behind the Internet vote.

Morales, who made the announcement, tipped his hand early. He came outfitted in a solid gold tie. So did Jim Cahill, vice mayor of West Sacramento, which is linked to the capital by the 738-foot, twin-tower span.

“But I would not be a politician if I didn’t come prepared,” he told a crowd gathered at the foot of the bridge before the announcement. With that, Cahill pulled out two other ties, one green, one red.

Caltrans opted to hold the election to avoid controversy over a color choice. Brightly lighted at night with its towers standing 110 feet above the Sacramento River’s muddy waters, the bridge is one of region’s most visible landmarks.

Though no Golden Gate in size or storied history, the span enjoys “strong emotional ties” to the community, said Jody Lonergan, Caltrans district director.

The vote on a bridge color is a first for Caltrans, which typically keeps such decisions in-house.

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With chipping work, a layer of primer and two final coats, the project won’t be done until spring 2003. The paint job will cost $3.5 million, more than triple the original price for the whole bridge, which was built in the mid-1930s for $994,000.

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