Historic U.S. Highway 66 crosses the heart of America, demonstrating the delights and realities of a wide cross section of American culture along the way. Created in 1926, the 2,400-mile ribbon of highway from Chicago to Los Angeles linked rural communities to urban ones, permitting an unprecedented flow of ideas and economic growth across the country. It saw the migration of Dust Bowl refugees; World War II troop movement; the advent of car culture and automobile tourism; and it facilitated large-scale settlement of the west. For many people in America and throughout the world, the highway has come to symbolize the spirit and freedom of America, and the pursuit of the American Dream. Although decommissioned in 1985, it gained legendary status through song, film, television, books, and personal experiences, and represents an important chapter in American history.
In 1999, in response to the recognized need to preserve the rich resources of the historic highway, Congress passed an Act (pdf) to create the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. Administered by the National Park Service, the program collaborates with private property owners; non-profit organizations; and local, state, federal, and tribal governments to identify, prioritize, and address Route 66 preservation needs. It provides cost-share grants to successful applicants for the preservation and restoration of the most significant and representative properties dating from the route’s period of outstanding historical significance, 1926 through 1970. These properties include the familiar “gas, eat, sleep”-related businesses, cultural landscapes, and the all-important road segments themselves. Cost-share grants are also provided for research, planning, oral history, interpretation, and education/outreach projects related to Route 66. The program serves as a clearinghouse of preservation information, and provides limited technical assistance.
The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is administered by the National Park Service’s National Trails System Office in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Designed as a “seed,” or stimulus, program, it is scheduled to legislatively terminate at the end of fiscal year 2009, at which time the National Park Service will appoint a non-federal entity (or entities) to continue the program’s purpose.