A project that will celebrate and explore the role played by Albuquerque as a popular stop along the historic Route 66 trail could see work finally starting sometime next year.
Funding for the planned Route 66 Visitors Center has been secured from a number of sources, including most recently a $128 general obligation bond approved by voters earlier this month.
Of that $128 million, $1 million is slated for the center, set to go up at West Central Avenue and 136th street, at the top of what is known as Nine Mile Hill.
Another $8.3 million is coming from local and state sources.
Altogether, it is thought that it will cost some $12.2 million to build a 21,500 square foot center that will house a museum, event space, commercial kitchen, and taproom.
Other proposed on-site aspects of the project include an amphitheater and neon sign graveyard.
As the project nears a launch date, members of the Bernalillo County Commission have voted to authorize a study designed to explore the center’s tourism and marketing potential.
In approving the study, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, commission member Debbie O’Malley commented: “This center is a little unique. It does have some venues that do require some public investment, and there are some expectations of revenue.”
Officially launched in the fall of 1926 by the former Bureau of Public Roads, Route 66 stretches nearly 2,600 miles from Chicago to southern California, serving as the country’s first national highway.
While the development, beginning in 1956, of the Interstate Highway System introduced a much more comprehensive network, Route 66 continues to attract drivers looking for a different kind of experience.
“The route is synonymous with freedom and space, street cruisers and easy riders, neon signs and diners,” notes the recently-published book Route 66: The Main Street of America: “In short, the symbol of a nation whose lifestyle is defined by being on the road.”
By Garry Boulard
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