Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Big Welcome Home

Crews unveil Orange County's new sign on I-5 at the O.C. - L.A. line.

Driving up the ramp on the I-5 you could see the nearly 20 foot tall sign, wrapped in an orange cloth ready to be revealed, and the sea of people in yellow construction vests and hard hats waiting to get the first glance.

I was among the crowd of elected officials, contractors and media folks who stood in the blazing heat to celebrate this occasion, which included comments from various individuals involved in the signs development.

As the program came to a close, the audience’s presence changed. Slight grins crept up the faces of those who were as eager as I to see a structure that will be admired for decades.

Laura Scheper, a lifelong Orange County resident, gave into the temptation and had to pose for some photos herself.

The unveiling was quick followed by a slew of pictures (I admit, I snapped a few shots of myself in front of the sign), and a brief traffic jam as drivers passing by took a look themselves.

The sign not only welcomes visitors and those returning home to Orange County, but it symbolizes the county’s transformation from a suburban community to a thriving metropolitan area. It was incorporated in the $325-million I-5 Gateway project, which is adding two lanes in each direction, reconstructing bridges and on- and off-ramps in a two-mile stretch between the Riverside Freeway (SR-91) and the county line.

I spoke with the fabricator from Outdoor Dimensions, Brian Pickler of Villa Park, and as he talked about the gateway sign, his boyish smile portrayed the authentic excitement he felt for being a part of a symbolic greeting in his home town.

Local dollars, supporting the local economy – that is what I will remember each time I come home and cross the threshold from Los Angeles to Orange County.

Laura Scheper
Community Relations Associate Specialist

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