RICHMOND, Va. -- Perhaps you've seen masons building the curved block wall in the flower -- and plant-heavy median at the Interstate 95 northbound and eastbound I-64 split.
It's more than 60 feet long. It will grow to 14 feet tall. It will stand like a rock, in the middle of this busy road, holding a single word: "Richmond."
The $390,000 sign is part of VDOT's $3 million Richmond Gateway project that aims to beautify the entrances to the Capital City and attract some notice from the legions who travel though here every day, explained Lindsay LeGrand, communications manager for VDOT.
This is something I've been writing and speaking about for nearly 20 years.
Historically, folks driving through Richmond saw parking decks, numerous scruffy old buildings, the sewage treatment plant, rusty fences and virtually no roadside landscaping.
Nothing that really hinted at the beauty of this historic city.
Very little that was welcoming.
All that started changing two years ago, with an ambitious landscaping plan for key interchanges that will finish up next year. The landscape design features shrubs, trees, flowers, grasses and lots of stones. (The hundreds of crepe myrtles and fragrant landscape roses are currently in bloom.) Crews started working on the foundation for the sign recently, and it is expected to be finished in time for September's Richmond 2015 UCI Road World bicycle championships.
But that race isn't what prompted this makeover. The work was planned and underway before Richmond was selected for the race, but state Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne told me they're certainly stepping on gas to get as much of the work done as possible by the time visitors from around the world start flooding the River City.
Layne also said the roadside beautification "is not just here, but across the state."
I can hear many of you asking if this is a wise way to spend the state's money.
Yes, there will always be a bridge or pothole to fix, or a school or firehouse to build. But many forward-thinking cities and states recognize that you have to look good if you want good things to happen.
Plus, as a master gardener friend likes to say, it's harder to be a criminal in a city that's pretty.
I don't know about you, but I've always found Richmond to be a grand, fascinating town that suffers from chronic low self-esteem. One of our favorite pastimes is talking trash about our own city.
We're way better than that.
Welcome to Richmond!