In 1927, merchants and civic leaders from Chicago to Santa Monica founded the U.S. Route 66 Association to support the creation and maintenance of the 2,448-mile-long highway. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the association promoted the road as a linear village: what was good for any one business was good for all the businesses along the highway. In addition to connecting major cities and small towns between Chicago and Los Angeles, the efforts of the association resulted in Route 66 becoming one of the most famous highways in the world.
In 1970, the U.S. Route 66 Association changed its name to The Main Street of America Association. However, the growth of the Interstate Highway System connecting the east and west coasts of the country afforded drivers the opportunity to travel the distance more quickly. Towns along Route 66 began suffering “death by Interstate” and the association disbanded in 1974. Route 66 lost its national voice and the last section of active roadway was bypassed in 1984. The following year, the Federal Highway System formally decommissioned Route 66.
It is important to note that 85% of the original road remains today and there is growing interest in preserving and promoting Route 66. The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service continue to invest in and maintain what has become a national icon. Route 66 connects eight states, each of which has an association, much like the original organization founded in 1927. Dozens of towns and cities have invested in the redevelopment of the road. Hundreds of retailers, small business owners and travelers are committed to helping in this effort.
The Route 66 Alliance, founded in 2010, invites you to join in this endeavor.