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Gateway Project Spruces Up City

For those of you that haven't noticed, Escalon's entryways are getting spruced up a bit on the west side of town.

Three separate locations are nearly completed, with installation of decorative brickwork, benches, a new fence, flagpoles, landscaping, a clock tower at one site and a couple of decorative sign boards for welcoming motorists into town.

Lots on Plaza Avenue, Escalon Avenue and Highway 120 are getting the facelift, with part of the financing coming from a long ago TEA (Transportation Enhancement Act) grant. Work was delayed when the city had to clean up the site of a former gas station along Escalon Avenue but the project has actually been in the works for about five years.

In fact, just a couple of weeks after his arrival at the city, David Ruby was handed the job of seeing the project through to completion by City Engineer and Public Works Director Doug Stidham.

An Engineering Technician II for the city, Ruby said it's hard to believe he started work on it five years ago and is just now seeing it enter the final stages.

The city applied for the TEA grant during construction improvements on the McHenry project, which saw installation of the traffic signals at the busy Highway 120-McHenry Avenue-Escalon-Bellota Road intersection and widening work on McHenry Avenue.

Landscaping plans were drawn up as part of the project by RRM Design Group, making the decorative 'gateways' into the city. The TEA grant was later received, bringing in $221,000 to the city for use in the project.

"Then there was contamination found at the gas station and that held the project up for quite some time," Stidham said.

Once able to get back in action, the project required an infusion of cash from the city, since by the time the years had passed the TEA grant didn't cover as much as it would have initially.

"David's done a good job on it," Stidham added of Ruby's handling of the project.

"It's better than dirt and weeds," Ruby said. "It adds a lot to the intersections and I think it says something to the people coming in to our town."

That 'something,' he noted, is that the city wants to be a friendly, inviting place and takes pride in the entrances to the community. General contractor on the project is McFadden Construction of Stockton, which has brought in several subcontractors.

"There's landscaping, there has been installation of benches, we have signs, which are not quite complete, that will have the Escalon emblem and 'welcome' signs, and at a third site we have a kiosk-tower structure that will have four Escalon emblems on it, one on each side," Ruby explained.

Work began in earnest on the project this summer and is about 98 percent complete now, he added.

"It has gone very smoothly," Ruby said. "We did get additional funds from the city, about $200,000 because the cost of getting things built has risen and we've been sitting on that (TEA) grant for a long time."

At the intersection of Highway 120 and Escalon Avenue, the gateway includes six trees, landscaping, an illuminated welcome sign, and a new wrought iron fence. At Highway 120 and McHenry, in front of Boat Country, there is a large area with brick pavers, four benches, four illuminated flagpoles, the kiosk, ground cover planting and seven new trees. Work done in the area of Plaza Avenue and Highway 120 includes the planting of five new trees, placing of several boulders, a pedestrian area with interlocking pavers, the 'Welcome to Escalon' sign, three illuminated flagpoles, landscaping and a new clock. Due soon is a transit shelter, which will be the same design as the one existing at the Main Street Park and Ride.

"This is a way to put a good foot forward for the city," Ruby said. "We're taking old, dirt, eyesore lots and making them new and fresh."

Escalon City Manager Greg Greeson said he hopes to schedule some sort of celebration featuring council members and perhaps a ceremonial ribbon cutting or dedication once the project is fully complete.

"The council has received a few comments already," he said, with residents noticing the work going on.

Some have asked why the gateway signs don't direct people to specific services, he said.

"The grant itself expressly prohibits that," Greeson said of promoting any business or service. "It's straight up a decorative deal, it's designed to help provide an entryway, to make the city look nice and I think it does that."