Exotic and striking, a salmon-colored shroud covering the Mormon Bridge could pass for an outdoor art installation.

But this is the Interstate 680 bridge and instead, the tarps encasing the bridge serve a practical purpose — catching lead paint chips and dust while the bridge is being rehabbed.

Marvin Lech, construction engineer for the Nebraska Department of Transportation, said crews can’t allow paint chips or dust to drift away or fall in the water while the bridge is being sandblasted.

“It would go everywhere, that’s why the tarps are up there,” he said.

Lead is a neurotoxin that is especially harmful to young children because their brains are still developing. Airborne lead is an especially potent way for children to be sickened.

Lech said crews are stripping and painting the eastbound section of the bridge this year. Next year they will move to the westbound side. This is the second of three years of repairs to the bridge.

The cost is expected to total about $11.2 million and includes bridge deck repairs, asphalt overlay and the painting.

The new paint won’t have lead in it, he said. And when the painting is complete, the bridge no longer will be pale green.

“We don’t do green anymore,” he said. “It will be blue.”