August 5, 2004
As Gilbert plans for the future prosperity sure to come with the Santan Freeway, the past will be remembered in the walls and bridges built to accommodate the stretch of Loop 202.
Pictures of Gilbert’s history — rich with trains, hay and a 125-foot water tower — can be seen in the fall with the architectural treatments decorating the new freeway.
Large pictures of trains are being built into the retaining walls along the Greenfield Road realignment. Pictures from train wheels, crossing arms and flashers will be seen along the bridges, which will have an old-fashioned look. Larger pictures incorporating train wheels and tracks, grain silos and irrigation ditches will line two elevated freeway bridges, said Tami Ryall, Gilbert’s deputy town manager.
"If you look at an aerial map of Gilbert, the most prominent feature in town is the railroad tracks that cut diagonally through town," Ryall said. "We’re pretty proud of our heritage and we want people to remember the town’s history."
Gilbert took its name from William "Bobby" Gilbert, who donated land to the railroad in the early 1900s.
Different than the typical desert motifs lining most Valley freeways, the Greenfield Road realignment will have 10- by 15-foot pictures of trains formed into the concrete walls along the road, which will run underneath a railroad bridge.
The 3-D pictures show trains rumbling past cactuses and water towers, emerging from tunnels and rolling over bridges.
Six train images will be used alternately in 34 places on the walls along Greenfield Road. The walls will be painted "koala bear brown," said Mark Fisher, project manager with Pulice Construction, the company working on the road realignment and parts of the freeway.
"It’s harder to do this, but it makes it more appealing to look at versus plain ol’ concrete," Fisher said.
Elevated freeway bridges at Lindsay and Recker roads give an opportunity for larger pictures. Probably about 300 feet long, with heights up to 35 feet, these walls will have a long picture of a collage culled from Gilbert’s historical icons. The chosen image, which includes wheat, cotton and alfalfa, was voted on in public workshops from seven different ideas, Ryall said.
Concrete mock-ups of the train pictures can be seen in the construction yard on the northwest corner of Greenfield and Ray roads. Gilbert’s community development lobby, 90 E. Civic Center Drive, has display boards of the pictures and the locations where they will be placed.