Monday, June 13, 2016


"A resurgence for the ‘Mother Road':  revitalizing Route 66" PBS NewsHour 6/6/2016

NOTE:  Dad, Mother, sister, and I, drove Route 66 when we moved from Pennsylvania to California in the '50s in a GM Pontiac.  Also, I love Mustangs, presently own a 2015 Mustang V6 (manual trans).


SUMMARY:  U.S. Route 66, running 2,400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, was once one of the most-traveled highways in the nation; John Steinbeck referred to it as the “Mother Road.”  But the rise of the Interstate Highway System led to a loss of traffic, devastating communities that relied on the route's travelers.  Now, Route 66 is making a comeback, thanks to its storied past.  Jeffrey Brown reports.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  It was neither the country's oldest nor longest road.  For Hollywood and everyone else, Route 66 came to symbolize America, a people on the move, a lifestyle that characterized it.

Some 2,400 miles of asphalt winding through eight states from Illinois, south through the heartland, then through the Southwest to California, it's a journey that millions once took, before the nation's economy and culture underwent vast changes.

It begins here in downtown Chicago, an older American story about the open road and connecting small rural communities to big cities, and a newer story about preserving some of that cultural past for economic gain today.

Route 66 got its official designation as a national highway in 1926.  For John Steinbeck in “The Grapes of Wrath,” it was the mother road, a major artery for migration during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and later for travel and tourism.  But by the '70s, the federal interstate highway system had begun to take over, bypassing towns, and devastating communities along the original route, in favor of speed.

MAYOR BOB RUSSELL, Pontiac, Illinois:  That was it.  The stores started closing one by one.  The gas stations went out of business.  The restaurants went out of business.  And, boy, your town starts to look really bad in a hurry.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Now, says Mayor Bob Russell, Pontiac, Illinois, an agricultural community of 12,000 two hours southwest of Chicago, looks pretty good.

And it's a prime example of a rebirth of Route 66 that's occurring in various parts of the country.  Town leaders here decided to use the history of the famous road to their advantage, 20 large murals, a museum of Route 66 collectibles, and much more, all bringing in tourists from around the world.

They have renovated historic buildings and encouraged new mom-and-pop stores to come in.

BOB RUSSELL:  This building in a couple of months will be ready for sale or lease, and we will have another business move in here.  Then that generates tax revenue and it keeps us from raising our real estate taxes.

JEFFREY BROWN:  And when a collector of vintage Pontiac cars was looking for a place to build a museum, Pontiac, Illinois, not Michigan, provided just the right incentives.

BOB RUSSELL:  And if you watch the old 66 movies, there's always a girl involved and there's always a fast car, the Corvette or Mustang.

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