Historic U.S. Highway 66, better known to the rest of the world as Route 66, marked its 91st birthday today.
Some debate rages on whether Nov. 11 can be called the Mother Road’s birthday. A few sources give it as April 30, which was when road officials in Springfield, Missouri, in 1926 assigned the number 66 to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles highway — hence that city crediting itself as the “birthplace of Route 66” and its fast-growing annual festival of the same name.
However, the highway wasn’t officially commissioned until Nov. 11 that year. The numerical assignment would have been worthless without the official act that approved it. So Nov. 11, 1926, remains the most commonly acknowledged birth date for the Main Street of America.
Today marks the fact Route 66 stands less than nine years from its centennial. Many festivals and events undoubtedly will be organized to mark the occasion in 2026. The ticking clock to 100 years also puts more pressure on the U.S. Congress to do something about it.
Several congressmen introduced two bills earlier this year — the Route 66 National Historic Trail Designation Act, under which the historic route would be placed under the auspices of the National Park service, and the Route 66 Centennial Act, which would direct the Secretary of Transportation to prepare a plan on the preservation needs of Route 66 and for other purposes.
The case for designating Route 66 a National Historic Trail was made here in 2012 — the two main benefits being uniform directional signs and more incentive to preserve historic properties. The historic-trail bill, H.R. 801, to date has gained 20 co-sponsors from nine states, including all eight states Route 66 traverses. According to Skopos Labs, its chances for passage is 25 percent.
The centennial bill, H.R. 66, has 19 sponsors. Skopos Labs tabs its chances for passage at 23 percent.
Although the current session will end in December, the bills can be taken up by the Congress next year, giving it until December 2018 for it to be passed into law. So it’s not too late — especially if you live in a Route 66 state — to contact your U.S. representative or senator to urge passage of these bills, especially the national-trail measure.
It seems the Route 66: The Road Ahead Partnership is making headway on its goal of preservation, promotion, education and collaboration of Route 66. It’s important the partnership keeps pushing the ball down the field to become a viable, self-sustaining organization, especially when the federal Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is scheduled to end in 2019.
Reading over what’s been proposed above, I feel confident about Route 66’s future. The upcoming centennial and Route 66’s huge impact on worldwide popular culture seems to bode well for federal legislation and / or a viable national Route 66 booster organization However, it’s no time to be complacent. If you care about the future of Route 66, contact your representative or senator and ask him/her to get on board with such legislation, especially the trail bill.