When Congress took a break for Christmas and the New Year, it did so without more funding for the historic Route 66 that passes through Oklahoma and other states from Chicago to Los Angeles.
As a result, cities and towns in Oklahoma and the other states through which the historic route passes will not get cost-sharing grants to create tourist spots along the Mother Road. Among those sites that received federal funding in the past was the Rock Cafe restoration in Stroud, Oklahoma or the Rialto Theatre in Winslow, Arizona.
Ken Busby, executive director of the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Route 66 Alliance, told Public Radio Tulsa the lack of dedicated federal funding for preservation work puts people trying to save the Mother Road in a tough spot.
“Having that federal aid that often provides a matching grant option really helps us leverage state and local dollars. So, it’s really critically important if we’re going to maintain this 2,448-mile stretch of road. We just have to have some help to do it,” Busby said.
Legislation to designate the Mother Road a National Historic Trail stalled in the House and Senate.
Route 66, also called the “Mother Road,” was born in 1926 after the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation’s first federal highway system, bringing together existing local and state roads from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles. Small towns opened shops, motels and gas stations to pump revenue into local economies as the nation’s car culture took off.
One of the first roads in the U.S. highway system, the highway ran through eight states, connecting tourists with friendly diners in small towns.
The route changed a number of times through the years. It eventually became less of a destination thanks to new interstate highways.
The World Monuments Fund in 2008 listed Route 66 on the “Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.”