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New look for freeway underpass


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SALT LAKE CITY -- When you're driving along a highway and go underneath a concrete overpass, in most places the view is pretty drab, dark and gray. That's not the case anymore at 300 North, between 600 and 700 West.

Until this past week, the 235 feet of concrete overpass, pillars and slanted ramps looked quite boring. It's still a work in progress, but the 16 grey pillars are now decorated with intricate colorful mosaics.

This project, called Bridges over Barriers, started back in 2005. It was designed to bring two neighborhoods, separated by the freeway, together.

Maria Garciaz, the executive director of NeighborWorks Salt Lake, said, "This is a project that has really transformed the community in a lot of ways. It brought young people together, old people together. It brought artists together who had never worked together before. It brought the schools together."

Things have certainly come a long way since we last visited those working on the Bridges over Barriers project.

In March of 2008, many of the ideas were still on paper or in the shape of an architectural scale model. One of the pillar mosaics was beginning to take shape on the floor.

**What is… NeighborWorks Salt Lake?**![](http://media.bonnint.net/slc/1473/147344/14734428.jpg)
The private non-profit organization, NeighborWorks Salt Lake opened in 1977 with the mission of revitalizing neighborhoods and creating affordable housing by providing dynamic and creative leadership through partnerships with residents, youth, businesses, and government entities.
Lily Yeh, who has worked on public projects like this around the country, told us then the vision of how it would all come together.

"I think we will involve hundreds of youth to come and actually lay tiles on these beautiful columns and we will install them. The artists will be the leaders and they will monitor and guide and supervise," she said.

In all, 16 artists and 1,500 volunteers did everything from raise money for the materials to actually laying the tile and installing the works.

Each pillar has a different design including a farmer, a miner, dancers -- even the Navajo Code Talkers. Garciaz says the pillars provide more than just a splash of color.

"The kids who have never heard of the code talkers will ask, ‘what are code talkers?' So they learn a little bit of history. So it's a piece of public art underneath I-15 that will generate some conversation," she said.

It's also doing something else -- reducing traffic speeds through the area. Motorists slow down to admire the artwork.

This is just phase two of the project. The final phase will be to cover up the rest of the concrete underneath the freeway sometime in the next couple of years.

E-mail: kmccord@ksl.com


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Keith McCord

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