Members of the U.S. Senate are currently looking over legislation that would put the management and oversight of the famous Route 66 under the purview of the National Park Service.
By so doing, argues proponents of the legislation, establishments and sites along the 2,500-mile route connecting Chicago to Los Angles would be eligible for federal grants funding preservation and rehabilitation efforts.
House Bill 801 was approved unanimously on a voice vote in the House of Representatives in June.
The measure has been in no small way helped by the support of the influential Washington-based Trust for Historic Preservation, which earlier this year included Route 66 on its eleven most endangered historic places in the nation.
That group also sponsored a well-publicized tour of the route this summer, designed to point out the many architectural wonders along its roadside.
With construction starting in the 1920s, Route 66 saw the building of hundreds of roadside diners and motors courts, many featuring a distinctive pre-World War II iconic modern design.
The advent of the national highway system, beginning in the late 1950s, greatly contributed to the decline of Route 66, which is now plagued not only with sections of roads and bridges in a state of disrepair, but also a large number of abandoned roadside commercial structures.
If the National Park Service ends up overseeing Route 66, it will also allow the NPS to apply financial and technical expertise to issues challenging the roadway.
In a website message promoting the NPS’ management of Route 66, the Trust for Historic Preservation says the move will bring about “greater public interest and investment to communities along the iconic highway and encourage their economic revitalization.”
It is not yet known when the Senate will take up the legislation.
By Garry Boulard
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