Route 66 News

A government program worth praising

Quite a few folks out there loathe to give praise to a government program, and often for good reason.

But this joint effort with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency targets abandoned gas stations along Route 66 for cleanup so they can be reused.

The Missouri DNR produced this video explaining the program. It uses the Route 66 Welcome Center in Webb City, Mo., as a success story:

The description with the video says:

Many services, such as gas stations, restaurants, motels and drive-in theaters, were constructed along Route 66. As the interstate took the place of the original highway, many of these businesses closed and became abandoned. Several of the abandoned underground storage tanks at the gas stations were never properly addressed and may have leaked gasoline into the soil and groundwater. These issues could pose a current or future risk to human health or the environment.

To help fix this potential issue the department will use money available through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Underground Storage Tanks. It is hoped these assessments will lead to the clean-up and the eventual safe reuse of these abandoned station properties. See how this program helped create the Webb City Route 66 Information Center at

The department is looking for potential sites and is asking for suggestions from residents in communities along the historic roadway. To inform the department about any projects your community may have, contact the department at 573-751-6822 or send e-mail to [email protected] before Sept. 15.

Arizona has had a similar program for in place for years, and it’s received a lot of praise — not just for ridding a potentially dangerous contamination site, but spurring new development along the Route 66 corridor.

If you or someone you know in Missouri owns one of these abandoned properties along the Mother Road, I really encourage you to contact the state’s DNR.


4 thoughts on “A government program worth praising

  1. CarlB

    On the Arizona site list at I notice a pair of Whiting Brothers stations.

    Neither still has the red-on-yellow WB colours or anything else distinctively Whiting; the former truck stop (1402 E. Second St, Winslow) became a truck repair shop and the former filling station (728 W. Hopi Drive, Holbrook) is a muffler shop (located roughly between the Safeway and the Cozy Cone Motel, as far as I can tell from Street View)

    I have to wonder what condition the rest of these are in. There were more than a hundred of these WB stations at one point, of which many were simply abandoned. The Whiting Brothers station depicted on is in New México and therefore not on these lists, but at first glance doesn’t inspire much confidence.

  2. KW

    I was wondering, and have posted elsewhere, if any old Route 66 service stations have been restored as functioning service stations. We recently took a trip on Ill. 66 and, after seeing so many nicely restored stations, commented on how cool it would be to pull up to one of them and actually fill up your car. Perhaps, given the environmental concerns, some can be converted (if it becomes feasible) to electric refueling stations.

    1. CarlB

      I don’t know of any… at least not using fuel pumps and equipment from that historic era to actually dispense gasoline. It seems that most of those claiming to “restore” old filling station pumps do not leave the motor or the pump mechanism in place. The restoration is mostly for show… replace missing glass and other visible pieces, sandblast the metal and apply a new paint job complete with logos for whichever brand of fuel and get any lighting or displays on the pump re-illuminated. The resulting “restored” pump may easily sell for a few thousand dollars but is not functional to dispense fuel for resale. These are typically pumps which are in poor condition initially but have been painstakingly restored cosmetically to the point where they look impressive but are not actually functional as fuel vending equipment.

      There’s also the morass of government regulation to which fuel stations are subject, governing everything from accurate weights and measures to environmental and fire safety to handicap accessible washrooms. When a station closes, all underground tanks normally must be removed – and good luck getting any historic pump to meet all the modern regulations even if it were returned to original condition and reconnected to modern fuel tanks.

      There is a list of historic restored fuel stations on which claims one Sunoco station in Bennington Vermont still dispenses fuel… but on closer examination it appears to be using modern pumps in what is designed to look like a historic station.

      An electric recharging station wouldn’t be a historically-accurate Route 66 fuel station, nor would an old station with modern pumps and tanks. I’m not sure what would be the oldest pumps that still actually function to original specification and meet the mess of modern regulation, but odds are they wouldn’t qualify as “historic”.

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