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Rusted Bells on 101 Jangle Nerves

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A columnist for the Gilroy Dispatch investigates a matter that's been bugging us all winter: how come the bells on the Hollywood Freeway look rusted already? We already knew about Caltran's mission bells project that follows the original El Camino Real, which linked the 21 California missions and follows much of U.S. Highway 101 but the answer surprised us.

[A reader asks] “I’m calling about the bells lining the El Camino Real along Highway 101. You did a story on them (Nov. 12). They’re up and they’re fun to spot, but how come it looks like they’re rusted out? They’re really not all that attractive.” The Red Phone contacted John Kolstad with California Bells. Kolstad said the rusted look was done on purpose.

“The bells were created to look old using natural oxidation or rust, as was the first bell installed in 1906,” Kolstad said. The reason for this is because of the need to maintain the bells.

“There was a concern regarding maintenance in the future. Caltrans was unsure if there would be money to repaint the bells, if painted, in the future,” Kolstad said, and added, “Most people compliment us on the appearance.”

Crafty. We use the same tactic on our car.