The inspiration for this National Treasure came from the 2013 Route 66: Road Ahead roundtable in Anaheim, California. This event, organized by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) and supported by American Express, provided an opportunity to meet the passionate and dedicated individuals who have done so much for Route 66. Through their efforts, vintage businesses and attractions have been brought back to life, the route has been promoted to national and international audiences, and stories of Route 66 have been shared around the world. It is thanks to these committed individuals and Route 66 organizations that Route 66 is still alive.
At the same time, there were looming threats on the horizon. While some vintage businesses and authentic Route 66 attractions had been revitalized, others stood vacant or were demolished for new development. Significantly, the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program (CPP), which has provided technical and financial assistance since 1999 to bolster private efforts, was scheduled to end in 2019.
I was honored to be invited to be part of a smaller Road Ahead Steering Committee following the Anaheim roundtable. The discussions of this committee resulted in the formation of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership as a new nonprofit to provide a unified voice for Route 66. The group also evaluated a number of possible federal designations for Route 66. After much deliberation, the group unanimously agreed that seeking a permanent federal National Historic Trail designation was the best option to replace the CPP.
Since that time, the Trust has been working with the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership towards this goal. Legislation (HR 801) to create a National Historic Trail was introduced by Rep. Darin LaHood in 2017, and a total of 21 bipartisan cosponsors were secured. The legislation passed the House Natural Resources Committee and the House in the first half of 2018. The legislation now moves on to the Senate, and ultimately must be signed into law by the President before the bill expires at the end of the year.
The National Trust is excited to shine a spotlight on Route 66 at this critical moment. In addition to listing Route 66 on the 2018 list of 11 Most Endangered Places, we’re thrilled that Route 66 will become our newest National Treasure. We are helping to secure letters of support and resolutions from local governments in support of the National Historic Trail designation. We have ambitious plans for the summer of 2018, including a branded road campaign traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles. Finally, we have an online petition to demonstrate to Congress just how many Americans support a Route 66 National Historic Trail.
We invite you to sign the petition and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If your summer travels bring you near Route 66, we would love to have you join one of our meet ups in July. You can sign the petition and learn more about the campaign at PreserveRoute66.org.