Protecting Route 66
Additional protection is now in place for two iconic Route 66 "shields" on a pedestrian bridge at the Cyrus Avery Memorial Plaza just west of downtown, according to the city planner who oversees the project.
The two shields, which are lit by LED lights, were damaged by vandals late last spring, and architects and representatives of Tulsa's Claude Neon Federal Signs have been trying to develop new ways to protect the shields ever since. On Sept. 23, city planner Dennis Whitaker said he was informed the new improvements have been completed and the shields had been relit.
"We think we've got a pretty good system in place," he said. "The head architect has fanned out some additional schematic panels of mesh on the bridge that are transparent from the street. They don't obstruct the view from the skywalk, either."
With the new protective panels, he said, designers believe they have come as close as they can to keeping someone from being able to damage the shields, even if they are swinging an object, without encapsulating them. Whitaker said additional barriers have been put in place that also will keep anyone from accessing the outside of the pedestrian bridge and damaging the shields that way.
As for a series of flagpole lights that also were damaged by vandals, Whitaker said those new protections are not yet in place, although he hoped they would be soon. Of the 16 lights placed in the ground in the flag plaza, 14 were destroyed by vandals.
Another security-enhancement measure is planned for the plaza, as well. Whitaker said video surveillance cameras are being placed above the area.
"They may not allow us to catch any attempt in the act, but we will have a record of that activity, so we think those are going to be a good preventative measure," he said.
Whitaker said he has been gratified by the response visitors to the plaza have conveyed to him upon learning of the acts of vandalism.
"Their response has been vocal, and there's been a high level of disappointment," he said. "The response has been striking, and it comes from all walks of life ... It just thrills me that people have taken such pride of ownership in that amenity. They can't make any sense of why someone would do that."
The plaza, which was paid for by Vision 2025 funds, will serve as the home of a three-story building that someday will house the Route 66 Experience -- an interpretative center and archives collection that conveys the history of the roadway -- along with offices for the national Route 66 Alliance and a restaurant. Whitaker said the design of that facility should begin this fall.
A bronze statue that will be placed at the site is being completed at a foundry right now, Whitaker said, and he expects it will be installed by the end of the year or early next year.
The plaza isn't the only local section of Route 66 that is benefiting from V2025 funds. Whitaker said work on two Route 66 "gateways" -- one in Red Fork, the other on the east side of town -- is proceeding as part of a citywide Route 66 streetscaping plan that has been in the works for the past few years.
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