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Federal Funding Could be Headed to Route 66 After 'Most Endangered' Designation
By Jorge Casuso
July 13, 2018 -- The enduring allure of Route 66 -- which ends in Santa Monica -- can be found in the lists of songs, films, books and television shows the old road has inspired.
Now America's "Main Street" -- which stretches 2,448 miles from Chicago to the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean -- could be headed for another kind of list with the public's help.
Last month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put Route 66 on its annual list of “Most Endangered Historic Places.”
The non-profit is lobbying to have the "network of existing roads that make up the route of decommissioned highway system" named the 20th National Historic Trail in the U.S.
If it earns the designation, the iconic highway would qualify for federal funds to promote and upkeep the road and the sites that border it, Trust officials said.
“Route 66 has fueled America’s imagination, popular culture, and passion for the open road for nearly a century,” Stephanie Meeks, the Trust's president and CEO said in a statement urging supporters to sign the petition.
Completed in 1926 as the nation’s first all-paved U.S. Highway System and expanded to Santa Monica ten years later, Route 66 became the “road to opportunity” for hundreds of thousands of Americans escaping the devastation of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
It provided jobs for road crew workers during the Depression and played a critical role in the 1940s when the U.S. went to war.
"And when the war ended, thousands of those troops traveled Route 66 back to their homes and families."
But the construction of the I-40 in 1957 spelled the decline of the storied road.
"Over time, travelers began bypassing Route 66 for the Interstate, causing the independent businesses, rich roadside architecture, and kitschy landmarks and attractions that the roadway was known for to slowly diminish," Trust officials said.
"By the 1960s, many communities and businesses along the route fell into deep decay. . . or disappeared entirely."
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