By Scott Thompson, News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Tulsa is missing two high-profile pieces of its Route 66 heritage. They're two signs custom-built for the pedestrian bridge at the new Cyrus Avery Plaza on Southwest Boulevard.
"Route 66 memorabilia is popular, but I think this was vandalism," said Dennis Whitaker of the Tulsa Planning Department.
City leaders couldn't have been more proud when they unveiled the new Cyrus Avery Route 66 Centennial Plaza back in August.
Paid for by Vision 2025, the most visible part of the plaza is the pedestrian bridge, and its two Route 66 signs, but now the signs are gone.
"We received phone calls from motorists and pedestrians going by telling us that the signs had been damaged and the actual LED lighting components had been pulled away from the structure of the sign," said Whitaker.
Less than a week after the city unveiled the plaza, someone vandalized both signs. As if the damage wasn't bad enough, the vandals also created a traffic hazard, forcing the city to call in the company that built them to take the signs down.
"These are definitely different than our normal course of business," said Ed Horkey of Claude Neon Federal Signs.
A team of two-dozen craftsmen at Claude Neon Federal Sign company had spent two weeks building them. The team members were not happy to hear that vandals had damaged their work
"We'd invested something emotionally because these type of projects are very important to our company and so everybody that had worked on the project was pretty upset," said Horkey.
The Claude Neon team spent a week repairing the damage. They also worked with the city to design a protective barrier that won't look like a barrier, once they reinstall the signs.
In the meantime, city planners say something positive did come out of the incident.
"The great part about it is Tulsans overall have taken great pride and ownership of the skywalk and specifically the shield," said Whitaker.
The City of Tulsa is in the process of approving the design for the barriers. Once the final approval comes, it will take about six weeks to build the barriers and get the signs re-installed.