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A BEAUTIFUL WAY TO TRAVEL – ROUTE 66
Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona,
U.S. Route 66 (US 66 or Route 66), also known as the Will Rogers Highway
and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road,
was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System.
Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs erected
the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous
roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri,
Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at
Santa Monica, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km).
It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song „(Get Your Kicks on)
Route 66” and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s.
Route 66 served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially
during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and it supported the economies of the
communities through which the road passed. People doing business along
the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway,
and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive in the face
of the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.
Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime,
and it was officially removed from the United States Highway System
on June 27, 1985, after it had been replaced in its entirety by segments
of the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through
Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a
National Scenic Byway of the name „Historic Route 66”, which is
returning to some maps.
Several states have adopted significant
bypassed sections of the former US 66 into the state road network
as State Route 66. Many sections of US 66 underwent major realignments.
In 1930, between Springfield, Illinois and East St. Louis, Illinois,
US 66 was shifted farther east to what is now roughly Interstate 55 (I-55).
The original alignment followed the current Illinois Route 4 (IL 4).
From downtown St. Louis to Gray Summit, Missouri, US 66 originally went
down Market Street and Manchester Road, which is largely Route 100.
In 1932, this route was changed, the original alignment never being
viewed as anything more than temporary. The planned route was down
Watson Road, which is now Route 366, but Watson Road had not yet been
completed. In Oklahoma, from west of El Reno, to Bridgeport, US 66 turned
north to Calumet and then west to Geary, then southwest across the
South Canadian River over a suspension toll bridge into Bridgeport.
In 1933, a straighter cut-off route was completed from west of
El Reno to one mile (1.6 km) south of Bridgeport, crossing over
a 38-span steel pony truss bridge over the South Canadian River,
bypassing Calumet and Geary by several miles.
From west of Santa Rosa, New Mexico, to north of Los Lunas,
New Mexico, the road originally turned north from current I-40
along much of what is now US 84 to near Las Vegas, New Mexico,
followed (roughly) I-25—then the decertified US 85 through Santa Fe
and Albuquerque to Los Lunas and then turned northwest along the
present New Mexico State Road 6 (NM 6) alignment to a point near Laguna.
In 1937, a straight-line route was completed from west of Santa Rosa
through Moriarty and east–west through Albuquerque and west to Laguna.
This newer routing saved travelers as much as four hours of travel
through New Mexico. According to legend the rerouting was done at the
behest of Democratic Governor Arthur T. Hannett to punish the
Republican Santa Fe Ring which had long dominated New Mexico out of Santa Fe.
In 1940, the first freeway in Los Angeles was incorporated into Route 66:
The Arroyo Seco Parkway, later known as the Pasadena Freeway;
now again known as Arroyo Seco Parkway.
In 1953, the Oatman Highway through the Black Mountains was
completely bypassed by a new route between Kingman, Arizona and Needles,
California; by the 1960s, Oatman, Arizona was virtually abandoned
as a ghost town. Since the 1950s, as Interstates were constructed,
sections of Route 66 not only saw the traffic drain to those
Interstates, but often the name itself was moved to the faster
means of travel. In some cases such as to the east of St. Louis this
was done as soon as the Interstate was finished to the next exit.
The displacement of US 66 signage to the new freeways, combined with
restrictions in the 1965 Highway Beautification Act which often
denied merchants on the old road access to signage on the freeway,
became factors in the closure of many established Route 66 businesses
as travellers could no longer easily find or reach them.
In 1936, Route 66 was extended from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica
to end at US 101 Alt., today the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and
Lincoln Boulevard. Even though there is a plaque dedicating Route 66 as
the Will Rogers Highway placed at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard
and Santa Monica Boulevard, the highway never terminated there.
US 66 was rerouted around several larger cities via bypass or beltline
routes to permit travelers to avoid city traffic congestion.
Some of those cities included Springfield, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri;
Rolla, Missouri; Springfield, Missouri; Joplin, Missouri; and Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma. The route was also a foundation for many chain stores back in
the 1920s. For example, because of the growing popularity of The Mother Road,
chain stores started sprouting up next to it to increase business and sales.