Route 66 News

Illinois gives $450,000 in grants for Springfield’s Route 66 corridor

The Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission last week landed two state grants totaling $450,000 to redevelop the Peoria Road/Ninth Street corridor and a plan to promote Route 66 in the county.

The State Journal-Register in Springfield reported:

For Sangamon County, this translates into $250,000 for a study of the Peoria Road/Ninth Street Corridor between Cook Street and Veterans Parkway. The plan will examine how development tools like tax-increment financing districts and opportunity zones can be best utilized in the area. And it is expected to have both an economic development component and proposed land-use component, said SSCRPC executive director Molly Berns.
It also means $200,000 for a Route 66 plan that will focus on identifying additional tourism attractions and how to better market Sangamon County’s portion of the Mother Road ahead of its centennial celebration in 2026.

Peoria Road/Ninth Street was part of original Route 66 from 1926 to 1939 and became Business 66 until 1977. Both grants came from the Illinois Department of Transportation for long-term projects.

Annette Fulgenzi is a member of the Sangamon County Board. Her father, John Fulgenzi, is a Springfield alderman and owns Fulgenzi’s Pizza and Pasta along Route 66. Both have been pushing for improvements to the city’s declining Route 66 corridor.

“If we do it, right, it could really kind of set a precedent and really establish Springfield as a Route 66 community that you don’t want to miss,” she said. “That’s all we need to do. … The momentum has been building and finally we’re making progress.”

The planning commission will hire consultants to lead the redeveloping and marketing process. Work likely will begin in January.

Business, county and city officials last year said they need a better plan to market Route 66 after acknowledging other cities on the route — including Pontiac and Litchfield and Springfield, Missouri — “increased their game.” That has taken on greater urgency as Route 66’s centennial approaches in 2026.

The death of Bill Shea at Shea’s Route 66 Museum also prompted the city in 2017 to discuss a tax-increment financing district along the city’s north side. Tourism in Springfield dropped after Shea’s death and the museum’s subsequent closing.

(Image of the Lauterbach Tire Man in Springfield, Illinois, by Pom’ via Flickr)

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