Tulsa Route 66 museum’s opening finally has a date

Route 66 Experience rendering

The Route 66 Experience museum near the banks of the Arkansas River in Tulsa has been in the planning stages for more than a decade.

Now, according to the Tulsa World, the city will announce plans later today to have what will be a $19.5 million project open by 2018, with a groundbreaking by summer 2016.

The newspaper reports the project got a kick in the pants when the Route 66 Alliance lured away Ken Busby from the Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council; he now is director of the group. Busby being a part of the alliance is crucial, because he’s a good fundraiser, and millions of dollars in donations will be needed to get the project off the ground.

With 42,000 square feet, the museum will resemble a bridge, stretching across Riverside Drive with views of the river and the downtown skyline. Route 66 landmarks, from a giant Blue Whale near Catoosa to the “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, aren’t exactly known for subtlety. So the new museum will use a bright red color scheme to compete for attention.

Inside, $4 million worth of interactive exhibits will tell the history of Route 66 and let tourists take a virtual drive from Chicago to Santa Monica.

“Tulsa is the only capital of Route 66, where east meets west,” Busby said. “We’re really the only city that could do something like this, and Tulsa is going to become known for it.”

Busby also said the alliance and city plan to repair the historic but closed 11th Street Bridge (that brought Route 66 over the river) and reopen it as a pedestrian area. But a timetable for that is much less definite.

The museum’s been a long time coming. Vision 2025 — which paid for improvements on Route 66 in Tulsa County — was approved by voters in 2003. The city backed off building the museum once it became apparent it would have eaten up that part of Vision 2025’s budget. Only in the last year has there been an actual proposal submitted to the city about the museum.

(Artist’s rendering of the Route 66 Experience circa 2005)


6 thoughts on “Tulsa Route 66 museum’s opening finally has a date

  1. “Tulsa is the only capital of Route 66, where east meets west,” Busby said. I assume he didn’t mean exactly what he said. Or am I misunderstanding his comment?

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