The north side of Springfield, Illinois, is struggling economically because of a decrease in Route 66 tourism there, reported WRSP-TV.
Apparently the situation has declined so much, alderman John Fulgenzi has met with the mayor’s office and congressmen to figure out what to do about Peoria Road, aka Route 66.
In the mid-20th century, if you ever planned to motor to Springfield’s north end, it was bustling. “They have people lined up in the drive through way down Peoria Road past my house to get their pizzas there,” said Debbie Tilling, who lives right near Route 66, talking about Vic’s Pizza. But now those lines at Vic’s Pizza are gone. The restaurant closed. Shea’s Gas Station Museum shut down too. “There is less traffic I’ve noticed down Peoria Road and down my street,” said Tilling. […]
“We’re probably doing 75 percent what we did 10 years ago,” said Jim Davison, who owns Jungle Jim’s Cafe. Gina Gemberling, executive director of Springfield’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said she’s not surprised by the drop off in tourism, but couldn’t give a figure on just how bad the north end is hurting.
Interestingly, the drop in business on the south end of Springfield hasn’t been nearly as severe. City officials think it’s because that part of Route 66 is closer to the interstate.
It seems the closing of Shea’s Route 66 Museum — and the city’s inaction in buying the site when it had the chance — played a sizable role in Springfield’s decline. The city underestimated the impact it would have.
Other nearby cities on Route 66 stepped up their game in recent years. The once-sleepy downtown of Atlanta, Illinois, has become a full-blown tourism destination. Litchfield built a Route 66 museum and visitors center. Bloomington overhauled its downtown history museum in a Route 66 theme and is reaping the benefits economically.
Meanwhile, Springfield stagnated. An arms race for Route 66 tourism developed, and Springfield fell behind.
(Image of a closed Shea’s Route 66 Museum by Brad via Flickr)