Originally published November 4, 2016
By Daniel Perez
The effort to raise two steel and concrete “pickaxe” monuments on both sides of Interstate 10 near The University of Texas at El Paso is scheduled to start Monday, Nov. 7, 2016.
The “Buried Pick” art pieces will be set on the concrete bases formed in February 2016. According to TxDOT officials, the project was delayed because the delivery of special lighting material needed to illuminate the picks took longer than expected.
Project engineers used the delay to make minor design changes to the picks that will make both easier to maintain. The goal is to complete the project in the next two months.
The art will look like a pickaxe embedded in the ground with its handle at a 75-degree angle. They will be about 40 feet tall, 25 feet long and 12 feet wide. The letters U-T-E-P will be 3-1/2 feet tall and set in both sides of the axe handle. The steel bases will be surrounded by native stone boulders. The total cost for both monuments is estimated to be $1 million.
The twin picks will serve as a gateway that marks the University’s most traveled entrance, said Greg McNicol, UTEP associate vice president for business affairs – facilities management.
“Motorists will get a clean, unobstructed view of both of them from the freeway,” McNicol said. “You can’t miss them. They’re great locations.”
TxDOT erected similar monuments that recognize the presence of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso campus in September 2016 along Interstate 10 near the Raynolds exit ramps. They were part of the same project as the UTEP monuments.
Construction could impact I-10 traffic around the UTEP area, but the contractors’ work schedule is still being negotiated.
The first pick tower to go up will be the one next to the University’s S-3 parking lot across from the planned Interdisciplinary Research Building. Both westbound “flyover” lanes to University Avenue will be closed during construction. Motorists will need to exit at Schuster Avenue. The contractor will finish that project by adding an estimated 120 feet of metal guard railing.
The second pick will be along the freeway’s eastbound lanes across from the S-4 parking lot north of University Avenue. It should go up within the same week as the first pick. Crews will shut down the two right-hand lanes starting about 500 feet before the Schuster Avenue exit ramp. The ramp will not be closed by construction.
Drivers are asked to slow down and use caution near the work zones.