Route 66 in Arizona

U.S. Route 66 or U.S. Highway 66 which is also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System. It was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs put up the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in the United States, ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona ending in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km). Route 66 ends in Santa Monica, with a a posted sign on the Santa Monica Pier that states “Santa Monica 66 End of the Trail.”

The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route on April 30, 1926. Route 66 underwent several improvements and realignments over its lifetime. It officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985 after it had been replaced by segments of different highways. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been communally designated a National Scenic Byway and received the name “Historic Route 66.” Route 66 has also been redeveloped into U.S. Bicycle Route 66.

During its nearly 60-year existence, Route 66 was under constant change. Highway engineers sought more direct routes between cities and towns. Increased traffic led to a number of major and minor realignments of Route 66 through the years, particularly in the years immediately following World War II when Illinois began widening Route 66 to four lanes through virtually the entire state from Chicago to east of St. Louis, including bypasses around all of the towns. By the early to mid-1950s, Missouri also upgraded its sections of Route 66 to four lanes complete with bypasses. Changes also happened in other states that reduced or completely eliminated the need to use Route 66, which brought its decline in starting in the 1950’s and even more so in the late 1960’s when most of Route 66 was effectively decommissioned.

The revival of Route 66 or as it is commonly known US 66, began in the late 1980’s with various people and groups forming to preserve it. In form, several states declared Route 66 as “State Historic Route.” The route was soon added to the National Register of Historic Places. Many preservation groups have tried to save and even landmark the old motels and neon signs along the road in some states. In 1999, President Bill Clinton signed a National Route 66 Preservation Bill that provided $10 million in matching funds for preserving and restoring the historic elements along the route. Today, the U.S. Route 66 Recommissioning Initiative works to recertify US 66 as a US Highway along a combination of historic and modern alignments. Route 66 has enjoyed popularity in pop culture, in movies, tv shows, plays, music, and literature. It has truly became the “Main Street of America.” If you get a chance, get on the road and travel Route 66. You’ll capture some amazing photos and see historical aspects along the way, including:

  • Old motels along the way in various states.
  • The Painted Desert in Indian Wells, Arizona.
  • Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma.
  • Petrified Forest in Holbrook, Arizona
  • Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.
  • Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica California among some notable mentions.

Bon voyage!

Read more about Santa Monica Pier, the West End point of Route 66.

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