An Interstate 44 widening plan concerns officials in Catoosa, Oklahoma, because it may turn tourists away from the town and Route 66.
The plan would close the exit to northbound Oklahoma Route 66 from westbound I-44. Instead, westbound drivers would have to exit at 193rd Street, do a U-turn on the Texas-style interchange, drive on eastbound I-44 and exit to northbound Oklahoma Route 66 from there.
KOTV in Tulsa reports:
Council member Derrick Hildebrant said he’s worried out-of-towners would get confused by the re-route, and skip Catoosa’s Route 66 altogether.
Hildebrant ran on the platform of revitalizing the historic Route 66.
“We have people who have businesses on 66, and potential plans and development on 66,” Hildebrant said.
The biggest Route 66 draw in Catoosa is the unique Blue Whale, which will become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in a few years. Catoosa also serves as home to the D.W. Correll Museum.
Catoosa also boasts Molly’s Landing, which not only is an excellent restaurant, but it saved several large pieces of the 1936 Bird Creek Bridge that carried westbound Route 66 until its demolition a few years ago.
City officials and business owners also fear the proposed exit also will conceal a shopping center near 193rd Street, leading to decreased sales there.
There are trade-offs. The state’s plan would straighten a notoriously hazardous S-curve on I-44. It also would create access to northbound Oklahoma Route 66 from 193rd Street.
Good signage probably would ease the potential problem. But signage for Route 66 in the Tulsa metro area remains erratic. Assuming ODOT would erect tourist-friendly signs is presumptuous.