Imagine it’s the year 1926. You are in Chicago, Illinois, longing to get to Los Angeles, California. Well, you’re in luck! A new highway was just created between the two cities. It stretches 2,400 miles (3,862 km) across eight states. Get ready to roll on Route 66!
The 1930s come, and Route 66 is bustling. It connects towns that used to be hard to reach. Route 66 cuts through flat prairies and areas with nice weather. This makes it easier to travel on than other highways. Business booms along the road. Restaurants, gas stations, and hotels pop up.
Route 66 quickly becomes a part of history. Throughout the 1930s, the United States is in the Great Depression. Many Americans struggle to find jobs and make money. A hits farms in the center of the nation. People call the area the Dust Bowl. Farmers and their families leave. Many head west on — you guessed it — Route 66.
World War II starts in 1939. Most of the fighting is far from America. But the United States still needs ways to move soldiers and supplies into place. Once again, Route 66 is there.
Fast forward, and it’s 1945. The war ends. Route 66 enters a golden age. Nat King Cole sings “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.” And Americans hit the road, not for war but for vacation! They pass beautiful lands and funky businesses. There are bridges, cafes, and drive-in movie theaters. The highway goes through Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. It ends at California’s Santa Monica Beach!
Now, let’s blast back to 2023. Route 66 isn’t as busy as it used to be. America’s road system grew. Travelers found faster ways to get around. Still, Route 66 is famous. And it is just three years away from turning 100. Officials are planning how to celebrate. Some states are giving Route 66 a touchup.
Oklahoma has about 430 miles (692 km) of Route 66 — the most of any state. It is getting money from the U.S. government. The money will add a turning lane and shoulders to a short stretch of Route 66. This will make the road safer.
Illinois is home to 300 miles (482 km) of Route 66. In April, it said $6.6 million would go to the road and projects. The money will help fix up sites along the highway. It will also add new features, such as charging stations for electric cars.
JB Pritzker is the governor of Illinois. He said these changes are about “honoring the history of Route 66 and looking to the future.”
Updated May 29, 2023, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Ashley Morgan