WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Williams is known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, and the city is living up to its name by building a second gateway structure for the east end of Route 66.
The city's first gateway arch went up across Grand Canyon Boulevard in 2009 to draw people pulling off of the freeway into the downtown area.
Arizona State Railroad Museum CEO Al Richmond and former city manager Dennis Wells came up with the idea for the original gateway.
The museum donated two cantilevers, which BNSF had donated to the museum, and $10,000 for the project. Several other parties, including the city of Williams, APS and Grand Canyon Railway, also completed in-kind work on the project.
"It was basically really when you get down to it a community project," said Richmond, who is now the project leader for the second gateway.
The new gateway will be installed on the east side of town where Rodeo Road intersects Route 66, said City Manager Brandon Buchanan.
"Since we built the first one a few years back we've wanted to actually improve all three entrances into town," Buchanan said.
Work is now underway on the second gateway, and officials are hoping it will be in place in early to mid-October.
Buchanan estimates the new archway will cost less than $20,000, paid for by a grant from a private donor. The money will pay for materials like steel and concrete, as well as assembly.
The city already had the two 100-year-old cantilevers for the new gateway. A railroad company in New Mexico no longer needed the cantilevers and donated them to the city, which only had to pay for transporting the materials.
Currently workers are preparing the gateway's two cantilevers for installation, which will require some welding and painting.
The new gateway will be wider than the original gateway, since Route 66 is wider than Grand Canyon Boulevard. The center span between the two cantilevers will be about 20 feet on the new gateway, compared to about 12 feet on the original, Richmond said.
Everyone involved in the project has been working well together, Richmond said.
"There's a lot of satisfaction involved in just doing something nice for Williams," he said.
After the second gateway is complete, Buchanan said the city hopes to install a third gateway on the west end of town in the future.
"The first one is such an iconic entrance into town. We have people stopping day and night there to take pictures in front of it," Buchanan said. "So this is our opportunity to expand that to our other entrances into town."