The long-planned beautification of the Gila Bend Highway railroad underpass, strategically located between Casa Grande’s downtown and industrial park, is moving forward.
A colorful tile mosaic mural will be installed on the weather-beaten, 90-year-old structure described as an eyesore by many residents, while the rest is repainted with images of saguaros, ocotillos and other symbols of desert life.
The images are based on comments and drawings from nearly 400 residents who attended several community meetings. Local artist Lisa Swanson, who designed the mural, said the images reflect “how they saw our community in the past, today and in the future” at the April 5 City Council meeting.
The council unanimously approved a $281,000 contract with Ellison-Mills Contracting to fashion a concrete arch over the mural on the middle panel of the overpass bridge, add surface and decorative painting, metal accents and $14,000 worth of landscaping, the last of which will be donated to the city.
“Sacrificial paint” that can be removed, then repainted in cases of graffiti will be used on the overpass, though members of the city’s CG Mosaic Creative Communities Team said there have been virtually no cases of graffiti being drawn on top of local murals.
Committee member Regis Sommers said the gateways to the Tucson area have been greatly enhanced by murals and other public art pieces, and the underpass mural will send the message that “we’re a classy community just like Tucson, just not as populous.”
Other partners on the project include the city’s arts and humanities commission, Casa Grande Main Street and the BlackBox Foundation.
City Councilman Dick Powell echoed the comments of others at the meeting that the project would help residents who have been struggling with the effects of the pandemic feel more hopeful about the future.
“This will put a little sparkle in people’s lives and let them know that things are better,” he said.
Installation of the mural and other improvements is expected to begin in June and be complete within 90 days.
Photos Courtesy of City of Casa Grande