“ROUTE 66 SHOULD DESIGNATED A ‘HISTORIC TRAIL’”
Route 66 is a historically important roadway that spans nearly a dozen states and three time zones, designating it as a national historic trail will help preserve it.
While legislation for public highways first appeared in 1916, with revisions in 1921, it was not until Congress enacted an even more comprehensive version of the act in 1925 that the government executed its plan for national highway construction.
Officially, the numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926. With that designation came its acknowledgment as one of the nation’s principal east-west arteries.
* From the outset, public road planners intended U.S. 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare.
* It’s diagonal course linked hundreds of predominantly rural communities in Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas to Chicago; thus enabling farmers to transport grain and produce for redistribution.
* In his famous social commentary, The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck proclaimed U. S. Highway 66 the “Mother Road.” Steinbeck’s classic 1939 novel, combined with the 1940 film recreation of the epic odyssey, served to immortalize Route 66 in the American consciousness. An estimated 210,000 people migrated to California to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl. Certainly in the minds of those who endured that particularly painful experience, and in the view of generations of children to whom they recounted their story, Route 66 symbolized the “road to opportunity.”
* From 1933 to 1938 thousands of unemployed male youths from virtually every state were put to work as laborers on road gangs to pave the final stretches of the road.
* Completion of this all-weather capability on the eve of World War II was particularly significant to the nation’s war effort. The War Department needed improved highways for rapid mobilization during wartime and to promote national defense during peacetime.
* Route 66 helped to facilitate the single greatest wartime manpower mobilization in the history of the nation.
* Between 1941 and 1945 the government invested approximately $70 billion in capital projects throughout California, a large portion of which were in the Los Angeles-San Diego area. This enormous capital outlay served to underwrite entirely new industries that created thousands of civilian jobs.