This is what Vision 2025 Route 66 master plan recommends for Tulsa County. Remember, this to-do list is not set in concrete:
— Route 66 sign and information center at 11th and 193rd.
— Informational sign for historic KVOO radio towers
— East Route 66 Gateway on 11th Street (Route 66) near Interstate 44 and Garnett
— Highway embankment beautification
— Route 66 roadside oasis, with streetscapes and trails, sculpture garden, restrooms and parking at 11th and Mingo in all four directions
— Intersection enhancements with major streets
— Landscape features
— Streetscape opportunities, such as this artist’s rendering of Red Fork (note the trees where are are none now).
— Santa Fe Depot superblock, with a train exhibit, arts center or a Route 66 center at 1st and 2nd downtown between Elgin and Frankfurt
— 11th Street Bridge overlook at the northeast corner of Riverside and Southwest Boulevard
— Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza at north end of 11th Street Bridge, which includes a bronze sculpture of Cyrus Avery, a plaza and the Route 66 Roadhouse, shown in two artists’ renderings here
— Avery Park Southwest, south of the bridge to 17th, with an eight-states walkway, Route 66 Hall of Fame or potential information center at 17th
— 11th Street Bridge rehab
— Red Fork Derrick, a 66-foot-tall observation deck with a restaurant, gift shop, administration offices, and a Frisco engine attached to two dining cars to serve as additional restaurant seating.
— West gateway
— Relocate historic Meadow Gold sign.
However, don’t anticipate a full renovation of the 11th Street Bridge in the near future. Fixup costs, according to the master plan, range from $2 million for a partial rehab to $15.7 million for a full-blown one. A full rehab is “not recommended at this time” because it’s cost-prohibitive. The plan urges a less-costly removal of vegetation, cleaning and sealing the cracks, and installing decorative lighting.
Here is the proposed breakdown of costs:
— $2.0 million for Avery Centennial Plaza
— $8.7 million for Route 66 Roadhouse next to the plaza
— $800,000 for the two gateways
— $600,000 for streetscaping form 89th Street East to Garnett
— $480,000 for streetscaping from 23rd to the river
— $250,000 for restoring and relocating Meadow Gold sign
— $500,000 for Avery Park Southwest
— $200,000 for informational Route 66 road signs
— $300,000 for work on 11th Street Bridge
The total is about $13.8 million.
Here are my opinions of the proposals.
— The downsized 11th Street Bridge proposal seems sound. It’s not going to break the bank. Low-cost beautification would go a long way.
— Avery Park Southwest on the other side of the bridge seems to be a dubious proposition because this would entail extending the park under U.S. 75 to 17th. To its credit, the master plan acknowledges the problem may be insurmountable. Perhaps a scaled-back park would be better.
— The gateways idea looks fine. The planners almost certainly took the idea from the spiffy-looking Route 66 gateways on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue.
— The Meadow Gold sign project in limbo until a suitable site is found to re-erect it.
— Informational Route 66 signs along the road is an excellent idea, mainly because there aren’t enough of them in Tulsa County to inform travelers. This is a common problem on various stretches of Route 66.
— On the other hand, the streetscaping is receiving a cool reception from Route 66 fans. In the master plan are pages and pages of antique-looking street lights, decorative trees and fancy sidewalks. Few Route 66 travelers care about streetscaping. They want retro neon signs, vintage architecture, mom-and-pop diners and cool old businesses, like the Country Store as an example.
However, one local Route 66 businessman said that Tulsa needs to beautify Route 66 so that area residents will visit it. He says sprucing up 11th will provide incentive for businesses to upgrade their properties and make the district more enticing to locals. Route 66 fans aren’t large enough in number to sustain the district by themselves.
I admit this businessman made a good point. I remain skeptical about streetscaping, but his viewpoint makes me less quick to dismiss it outright.
— Most of the talk centers on the Route 66 Roadhouse because it eats up more than half the budget. Some businesses have complained, saying the money for it should be spread along the route instead being funneled to one place.
But several prominent Route 66ers, whose opinions I value because of their expertise, insist the roadhouse would give Tulsa the big Route 66 showplace it needs to pull travelers off the interstate. The proposed location near the north side of the 11th Street Bridge is visible from I-244 and U.S. 75 and quickly accessible. It would be loaded with high-tech stuff, a diner and a museum. Once visitors are drawn there, then they will be enticed to drive the rest of Route 66 in Tulsa County. And the roadhouse fits into the “think BIG” exhortations within the master plan.
After much thought on this, I concur with having the roadhouse built.
Some have brought up the Rose Bowl as a museum site. But it’s not visible from the interstate. The arson fire in it last month damaged it badly, and there’s an asbestos problem in there as well.
— The other Tulsa Route 66 ideas, including the Santa Fe Depot, seem to be on the back burner. The Red Fork Derrick keeps getting bandied about, but the location isn’t as good as the roadhouse’s. And you won’t see much scenery from the observation deck except for homes, I-244, refineries and Lookout Mountain. It’s too far from the Arkansas River.
Stay tuned for Part 3, when I find out what’s hot and what’s not on Tulsa Route 66’s to-do list.