A prominent Route 66 expert wrote a letter to a village, expressing his concern that truck traffic will negatively impact tourism on the Mother Road in Will County, Illinois, reported Suburban Life Publications.
John Weiss, who won the prestigious Steinbeck Award for historic preservation with his late wife Lenore in 2002 and has written several books about Route 66 and other historic roads in the Chicagoland area, wrote the letter to the village of Elwood, Illinois, in support of efforts to transform Illinois Highway 53 (aka Route 66) to a more Route 66-friendly corridor.
But he warned efforts will be for naught if truck-traffic congestion from Elwood and Joliet aren’t addressed.
Here are quotes from Weiss from the letter and to the newspaper:
“Route 53, from Joliet to Wilmington, … deserves better treatment. This stretch of road serves as the gateway to Historic Route 66, where the metropolitan landscape gives way to idyllic and quaint communities. Unfortunately for visitors and tourists – many of whom are traveling from overseas and visiting the U.S. for the first time – their first impression of small-town America is appalling and disappointing. […]
“Words spread quickly with social media. Of course, tourists are going to hit Chicago. World-class city. But from there, they have a choice: Either get on I-55 and bypass all this or come down into Joliet and through all this congestion. I, myself, I’d bypass it.”
Weiss lives in the area, and has a lot of credibility about Route 66. So I’m sure his letter got the attention of the village — and the media.
The problem was exacerbated by Elwood starting an overweight-truck permit program a few years ago. The village gained revenue from it, but truck traffic increased on Illinois 53 because of it. The CenterPoint Properties trucking intermodal development also added truck numbers on the route.
A CenterPoint spokesman said the best solution to remove trucks from Illinois 53 would be a new bridge from Interstate 80 and Houbolt Road.
Also, jurisdictions could simply ban big trucks from that road and create a dedicated truck route away from it instead.
In addition to the mentioned towns before, Will County includes Braidwood, Wilmington, Crest Hill and Romeoville on Route 66. But it seems most of the truck trouble is in Joliet and Elwood.
(Image of Illinois 53, aka Route 66, in Crest Hill, Illinois, by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, via Flickr)