In 1927, Cyrus Avery and John Woodruff formed the U.S. 66 Highway Association to promote the early completion and secure permanent maintenance of U.S. Highway No. 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles, commonly called “the Main Street of America” and to encourage the people at large to use the same. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the association promoted the road as a linear village: what was good for one town was good for all the towns along the highway. In addition to connecting major cities and small towns between Chicago and Santa Monica, the efforts of the association resulted in Route 66 becoming the most famous highway in the world.
By the 1970s, the growth of the Interstate Highway system connecting the east and west coasts of the nation 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 roadways was bypassed in 1984. The following year, U.S. Route 66 was formally decommissioned. The familiar shields were removed but the spirit of Route 66 did not die.
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 historic highway 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.
In 2015, the U.S. 66 Highway Association was reestablished following the consolidation of the Route 66 Alliance and the National Historic Route 66 Federation. In the decades since the U.S. 66 Highway Association was dormant, no entity had definitively established itself as the sole national clearinghouse of information for Route 66 enthusiasts. As a combination 501c3 and 501c4, the Alliance and Federation under the re-energized U.S. 66 Highway Association banner will accomplish that goal, creating a collected entity with international reach and influence.