Several thousand people joined local, state, and national representatives to celebrate the completion of the final section of SR-52 through the city of Santee on Saturday, March 19, 2011. The festivities included speeches, a ceremonial ribbon cutting, a flyover by aircraft from the upcoming Gillespie Air Show and a three-mile fun run/walk/bike ride. A classic and green car show, vendor and organization booths and music rounded out the entertainment.
One of Santee’s adopted U.S. Marine Corps units, Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 462 from Miramar MCAS, provided the guard for the presentation of colors and Pledge of Allegiance and Pastor Tony Foglio of Sonrise Community Church gave the invocation. As a special treat, former SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) staffer Mike Hicks performed a song dedicated to the opening, written to the tune of “Battle of New Orleans.”
Radio personality and former Santee resident “Shotgun” Tom Kelly acted as Master of Ceremonies for the presentation of dignitaries. Current Mayor Randy Voepel introduced the color guard and Pastor Foglio, and Santee Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Warren Savage led the Pledge of Allegiance. Former Mayor and current City Councilman Jack Dale, who was instrumental in pushing for the completion of the freeway, fired up the crowd as he raised his fist and shouted out, “It’s done!” He then went on to talk about the trials of getting the project and introduced other speakers including Congressman Duncan D. Hunter and County Supervisor Diane Jacob. Congressman Hunter drew laughs when he assured the crowd that, unlike a traditional politician, he would not claim responsibility for completing the freeway. He did promise to pass Dale’s thanks along to his father, former Congressman Duncan Hunter, who had been instrumental in securing funding for parts of the freeway project.
After the speeches the dignitaries, joined by the new Miss Santee and Miss La Mesa Pageant winners, gathered for a ceremonial ribbon cutting on the westbound lanes of the new SR-52. The aircraft made two flyover passes, one before the cutting and one after, and the Santana High School Marching Band performed following the ceremony. Once the road had been cleared several hundred bicycle riders of all ages started off on their fun ride, followed by the runners and walkers. It was nearly impossible to get an accurate count of all the participants as more arrived after the official beginning. Once they had completed the three-mile route, participants were routed across to the eastbound lanes where the car show and vendor booths were set up. In addition, the local Country band Emerald River performed on the stage after the ceremony.
State Route 52 (SR-52) is a 17.7 mile freeway that stretches from La Jolla on the coast to SR-67 on the east side of Santee. The project was built in multiple stages, reaching the outskirts of Santee and connecting to SR-125 before hitting a 17-year delay. Construction on the final 3.5 mile portion began in 2008 and final touches will be applied over the next week in preparation for its scheduled opening to use on March 26. After that time it will no longer be legal or safe to lie down on the freeway.
For more photos of the day, visit SR-52 Celebration on Picasa