From the Magazine: A Drive Through History
Route 66 prepares for its 100th anniversary
For decades, Route 66—running from Illinois to California—was a major path for many Americans to move across the United States. The vibrant diners, motels, gas stations, and other attractions that lined its roadways generated great economic growth and development. But starting in the 1960s, drivers largely abandoned Route 66 in favor of newer interstate highways, creating challenges for its surviving businesses, roadside architecture, and surrounding communities.
In 2008, Route 66 was included on the World Monuments Watch to address these challenges head-on. A partnership with the U.S. National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program resulted in a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening the site’s long-term stewardship, including creation of an online travel itinerary and an Economic Impact Study.
Today, stewards from Route 66, The Road Ahead Partnership and the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program are working to revitalize and sustain the legendary roadway as a national and international landmark that benefits all stakeholders through promotion, preservation, education, and economic development. This summer, Kaisa Barthuli from the National Park Service and Bill Thomas from Route 66, The Road Ahead Partnership joined WMF in New York to present the Route’s forward-looking priority actions, including pending legislation that would make the National Park Service’s involvement permanent.
Route 66 is now preparing for its event-filled 100th year as a U.S. Highway in 2026. Stewards are working to ensure passage of federal legislation that would establish a National Route 66 100th Anniversary Commission, creating a structure to coordinate national and state-level efforts associated with the historic year.
Though the landscape may be evolving, getting your kicks on Route 66 is as relevant today as it was in 1926. Stay tuned for more updates as we approach the site’s milestone anniversary.Generous support for the Route 66 project was provided by American Express.