Are There Any Solid Predictions For The Future Of Historic Route 66?
If you know anything about 20th century American history, then you have to have heard of historic Route 66 at some point or another. This road ran from Chicago through the Midwest, Great Plains, and Southwest, before ending in Los Angeles. The more than two thousand miles of highway were the ‘main street of America’ from the late 1920s up until it was officially decertified in the late 1980s. The ‘boom period’ might have been the late 1940s and 1950s, although the development and construction of the Interstate system wound up being the demise of this famous roadway.
When it was one long continuous route, it served as a major migration corridor for the population of the eastern half of the country moving west. Many who wanted to make a better life for themselves in California might not be able to fly, take the train, or sail out there, but they could pack up what they could in a car or truck and hit the road, albeit slowly. Roads didn’t have modern freeway speed limits back then, and cars certainly didn’t have the same speeds or durability.
The road was a major place of business for restaurants, hotels, and all sorts of bizarre attractions, ranging from carnivals to museums. Some traveled the route simply for tourism. The towns that were along the route often grew into cities, and some places just saw towns and cities spring up overnight from nothing, bringing restaurants, banks, schools, and vendors from carpet cleaners to general stores and hardware.
Now, the route is no longer a continuous highway, actually having been abandoned in some places with the concrete even crumbling. Still, efforts are being made in some places to recover stretches of the highway into vacation and tourist destinations once more.
The interest in this is almost always at the local or state levels, as they try and reinvigorate areas in dire need of economic stimulus. Unfortunately, they can’t count on much help from the federal government for help in restoring Route 66 in any shape or form. The federal government obviously pivoted to the Interstate system in the 1950s and 1960s, and has stuck with it since. Both political parties keep suggesting that serious investment in infrastructure is a good idea, but severe differences in ideas, spending priorities, and revenue collection, coupled with political gridlock, keep anything from happening. That leaves states along the former route and any surviving municipalities pretty much on their own.