Crowd celebrates opening of Highway 52 to Santee

City News Service

It's not quite Santee-by-the-Sea, but Saturday's opening of the final freeway link between Santee and La Jolla was celebrated with great fanfare.

Free T-shirts and food was handed out, there were bike rides on the soon-to-be-busy freeway lanes, and bands played.

The grand opening of the final segment of the Route 52 freeway began with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. near Cuyamaca Street, said David Hicks, a spokesman for San Diego's Regional Planning Agency.

The celebration continued with a 3-mile bike ride-run-walk on the new road.

The first 3,500 who arrived at the event got free "SR 52 Sea to Santee" T-shirts, and children took trackless train rides on the new road's lanes, Hicks said.

Aircraft from the Gillespie Air Show performed flyovers for the celebration, and guests also took in a car show, wandering clowns and balloon sculptors, gymnastics demonstrations, high school bands.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department brought its car crash display, lending a serious note.

The 3.5-mile portion of state Route 52 completes the 17.7-mile link between state Route 67 at Santee and Interstate 5 near La Jolla. It's completion is expected to remove heavy traffic from Mission Gorge Road and Mast Boulevard.

The first segment of freeway opened in the 1970s, in Rose Canyon. Construction on the road's final link began in 2008 and cost about $520 million, paid for with a half-cent sales tax and state and local funds, Hicks said.

   
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