With towering columns and a bronze statue of the Follow Me Soldier, future visitors to Fort Benning will pass under a $4.5 million gateway at Victory Drive and Interstate 185.
The gateway will serve as a formal entrance into Columbus and Fort Benning. Columbus Council approved an agreement Tuesday allowing the city to accept state funds for the Gateways Foundation, the designer of the project.
“It’s pretty elaborate,” said Rick Jones, director of the city’s Planning Department.
Included in the improvements are four 45-foot high monuments flanking the four corners of the Victory Drive Bridge. On each of the monuments, a 12-foot high bronze statue will rest, representing Trooper on the Plains, Follow Me Soldier and two American eagles.
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A facade will be placed on the north and south face of the bridge. The north face will boast in big letters Fort Benning and on the south, Columbus. There will be two fountain plazas just north of the bridge on either side of I-185.
Each plaza will have 10 45-foot American flagpoles and 10 20-foot high jets of water illuminated and landscaped with trees, grasses, shrubs and perennials.
The area will offer an impressive view for visitors to Fort Benning.
“When folks come in through town to see their son or daughter graduate, that is going to be the first thing they see, the entrance way into Fort Benning,” Jones said. “They are going to see it and it’s going to be special when they get done with it.”
No city money will be required to build the gateway. Funding includes $2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the president’s stimulus plan, and $2 million from the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Program. The city applied for the stimulus, which also includes money for federal tax cuts, expansion of unemployment benefits, health care, spending in education, infrastructure and other projects.
Money from the state requires a 20 percent match from the foundation that totals $500,000, Jones said.
With a road project already under way on I-185, Jones said it could be six months before any dirt is turned for the gateway. “They are about a year behind,” he said. “It’s will probably take about a year.”
Developer John Flournoy, who has coordinated efforts to improve major intersections throughout Columbus since 1991 with flowers and trees, wasn’t at Tuesday’s meeting. He has been working on the I-185 gateway for more than two years.
“He is at the stage now where they are ready to come out of the ground with it,” Jones said.
Flournoy reached out to former Hollywood designer Paul Sylbert for the gateway. His movies include “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Heaven Can Wait,” which won him an Academy Award.