Route 66 will get some new attention as the centennial of the mother road approaches in 2026. Oklahoma will be a key player on a new federal Route 66 commission.
Route 66 was the first all-weather transcontinental highway in the United States, connecting Chicago with Santa Monica, California. It passes through eight states.
In Tulsa, a new neon sign grant project has encouraged businesses to repair and relight the neon signs associated with the tourist stops along the highway.
Many businesses tie their success to what's happening and will happen along the highway, and even during the pandemic, new businesses have opened along Route 66 in Tulsa.
"Being some place along Route 66 where people will come in for that, and the art deco, is wonderful," said William Franklin, the owner of Decopolis, who recently moved his art deco themed store from downtown to Route 66. "It's a good investment for us to get in early and you see other stuff happening along Route 66."
Rhys Martin, President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, said though the summer travel season of 2020 was a bust because of the pandemic, there are signs of growing interest for the summer of 2021.
"It continues to be a huge driver, a bucket list kind of item for travelers from around the world," said Martin.
Congress created a Route 66 Centennial Commission through legislation co-sponsored by Senator Jim Inhofe, and signed into law by President Trump. The commission can recommend appropriate commemorations, things like coins and postage stamps, and help create new educational material about the highway. Each of the eight states on Route 66 gets one appointment to the commission. The President and Senate appoint the rest of the 15 member commission.
Martin said the new commission "will involve things like better signage, which we're doing right now in Oklahoma, and just making sure when people come over to visit, there will be more to see and do than there is now."
The commission could also push to make Route 66 a National Historic Trail, something along the lines of a national park stretching across the country, recognizing the historical significance, and encouraging tourists to stop and take a look.