Thoughts on Route 66 on its 95th birthday

Today marks what is considered by many as the 95th anniversary of the creation of U.S. Highway 66, aka Route 66. As one who has run this website for 16 years and been involved on Route 66 for more than 20, I’ve got a few random thoughts from my time of reporting about this fabled highway.

On an aside, some debate still simmers on whether Nov. 11 is Route 66’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. But the highway wasn’t officially commissioned until Nov. 11 that year. No commission, no highway. So Nov. 11, 1926, remains the commonly acknowledged birth date for the Main Street of America.

Angel Delgadillo yesterday put together his thoughts on the milestone:

So here are my observations about the ol’ 66:

Pressure will continue to mount on Congress to designate Route 66 a National Historic Trail. Today’s milestone means lawmakers in Washington have five short years to finally pass the historic trail legislation. (Read more about my thoughts from nine years ago about the idea.)

Nearly 20 historic trails exist in the U.S. now. Route 66 is arguably the most famous road in not just America, but the world. How can U.S. representatives and senators justify not giving it the designation? They can’t.

The Route 66 Economic Impact Study is the most consequential document for Route 66 in at least two decades. The 400-page report from Rutgers University in 2012 stated, in short, that Route 66 saw more than $120 million in spending each year, created 2,400 jobs, sparked $262 million in output, and generated $37 million in tax revenues. The report stated that spending on historic preservation created more “bang for the buck” than many other sectors. (You can read more about it here.)

With the study’s documented dollar amounts, it forced municipalities to sit up and take notice of Route 66’s economic clout and be more receptive to it. An example: Springfield, Missouri, went from being “meh” on the Mother Road to flat-out embracing it — including its Birthplace of Route 66 Festival — just a few years after the report was released.

More and more historic properties are being preserved. Sure, Route 66 loses historic places here and there. But the preservation of iconic properties has accelerated.

Places such as Sprague’s Super Service Station, The Mill, Jensen’s Point, Larry Baggett’s Trail of Tears site, Boots Motel, Wagon Wheel Motel, Rockwood Motor Court, Campbell Hotel, Castaneda Hotel, El Vado Motel, Roadrunner Lodge Motel, Classen Inn, Cucamonga Service Station and Launching Pad Drive-In were closed or moribund properties 15 years ago. They now are all revamped and doing well.

Route 66 also has seen its share of new attractions during that time. POPS, Cars Land, Gearhead Curios, Cars on the Route, Route 66 Village, Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum, Route 66 Interpretive Center, Litchfield Route 66 Visitors Center, Bearizona, Guy Mace’s Route 66 Car Museum, Russell’s Travel Center and U-Drop Inn Cafe are creating new memories while paying tribute to the Mother Road.

Reading over what I’ve just written, I’m very optimistic about Route 66’s future.

What are your thoughts along these lines?

(Image of Route 66 in California by Meins Photography via Flickr)

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Route 66 on its 95th birthday

  1. Ron, congrats on 16 years. I always check out your posts. Hopefully your persistence and determination will pay off. Thank you.

  2. Hi Ron,

    Thanks for all your good work. You list a few success stories, but we have to stay alert. There are still things disappearing or threatened.
    Not long ago, a unique bridge with pedestrian sidewalks near Afton has been demolished. The sign of the Club Cafe in Santa Rosa has been removed. The Gardenway Motel, you wrote about recently, is facing demolition. The fate of the Gasconade bridge near Hazelgreen is still uncertain.
    Among the things to wish for: restoration of the neon sign from The Franciscan Lodge in Grants NM.
    Ron, please keep up the good work!

    Fred from The Netherlands

  3. “How can U.S. representatives and senators justify not giving it the designation?” With today’s polarized politics I don’t see that happening anytime soon – sadly. It seems like they (either party) have no interest in putting the country first. It’s either what the party wants, big business wants, or their own reelection so forget about what “We the People” want or need.

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