U.S. Route 66 could be reinstated in Illinois adopting the alignment of the existing Route 66 Scenic Byway using a new U.S. 66 Route designation that would offer the traveler a seamless and well signed Route 66 marking plan connecting with Route 66 in Missouri.
For the millions of Americans who once made the trek west on Route 66, or those that hope to in the future, this is where the journey starts. U.S. Route 66 began in Chicago, one of the world's truly great cities, then passed through the state capital of Springfield on its way to Saint Louis. Numerous Route 66 landmarks can be found along the way through Illinois.
There is the Launching Pad Café in Wilmington with its "Gemini Giant" statue, the shrine of Our Lady of the Highway near Raymond (since 1959, the "Hail Mary" spelled-out much like the old Burma Shave signs), the Lincoln House in Springfield, the Maple Sirup Farm in Funks Grove, the Chain Of Rocks Bridge, and the beautifully restored Sinclair Gas station in Odell to just name a few.
The State of Illinois deserves credit for being one of the very first states to take the initiative of posting commemorative Route 66 markers as a memorial to the historic Route. However, in the years since, new and additional signs have not kept up with rising demand. In spite of the fact that Illinois' portion of Route 66 became a National Scenic Byway in 2005, signage is difficult to follow in some areas. This has caused Illinois standing on signage to fall. For state ratings on signage see state route 66 signage ratings.
Particularly notorious are junctions with other state highways and Interstate Highways. In many cases, no mention is made of Route 66 on or along Interstate highways. According to a study done by Rutgers University, the difficulty in finding and staying on Route 66 - an issue directly related to inadequate signage - was the number one complaint of Route 66 tourists and travelers.
An amusing incident occurred in the summer of 2011 while a church group that was travelling together was returning from a wedding in Iowa. They were caught in the most horrific traffic jam imaginable on I-80 in the Joliet area and after not moving at all for almost two hours, drove along the shoulder of the highway and bailed out at the next exit. The group soon became lost in the maze of industrial roads in the area and accidently stumbled onto old Route 66 then drove on it for several miles before they even realized they were on Route 66. This sorry state of signage affairs is highly undesirable and unacceptable.
The State needs to have all junctions with Route 66 clearly signed in accordance with MUTCD-like sign assemblies and add additional and more frequent reassurance markers. To see the kind of sign assemblies that are needed in Illinois and other states, go to: See More Signs Needed.
One way to thoroughly improve signage would be through a new "66" U.S. Route designation. In areas where Old Route 66 is now designated as Scenic Byway, a new U.S. Route designation would adopt that alignment and comply with all Byway guidelines and criteria.
In those locations where an additional, parallel alignment has been granted Byway status, the primary alignment (to be determined by the State DOT) would get the new U.S. Route designation while the secondary alignment could be designated as U.S. "Alternate" 66 or U.S. "Business" 66. For more information see The Plan page. The U.S. Route 66 Recommissioning Initiative is a resigning proposal and not a "highway" plan.
Co-designation as Scenic Byway and a U.S. Route would provide travelers on 66 with a seamless continuity over any gaps in the Byway. U.S. Route designation would also greatly improve consistent state-to-state continuity for Route 66 tourists and travelers. The Route would also return to all standard, printed and online road atlases.
This will all add up to making Route 66 more "visible" and user friendly to the traveling public. The added exposure will, in turn, increase traffic and business along the old road. Many historic and newer businesses and properties are already capitalizing on the Route 66 name and, although a few are struggling, all, both old and new alike, would be in a position to profit from a revitalized U.S. Route 66.
An intriguing idea for Illinois would be to grant Illinois State Route 157 in the Edwardsville area the U.S. "Bypass" 66 designation that it enjoyed in the past. With the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge out of commission for vehicular traffic, perhaps the designation could cross the river on the I-270 Bridge.
The return of U.S. Route 66 would be a clear benefit to both travelers and the State's economy. Smaller communities along the old road would especially be in a position to benefit. A new U.S. Route 66 might also be in a position to help create new local jobs during economically troubled times.
The United States Congress has the authority to designate or re-designate U.S. Highways. Probably the most practical way to bring U.S. 66 back would be for Congress to re-designate it. Congress could also include a provision in any such legislation to provide the State DOT with federal funds to help pay for all the new signs.
E-mail or write your U.S. Representative at: http://www.house.gov/writerep/
Let your U.S. representative know that a new official U.S. Route designation is needed for Old Route 66 and that federal assistance is needed to help pay for additional new signs and, where needed, repairing the old roadway and bridges in a manner that will preserve the Route's historic appeal.
Additionally, it might be helpful to contact the Illinois DOT. Let them know that improved signage for Route 66 is needed. The more people they hear from, the more likely they are to address issues specific to Route 66. Contact the DOT at: http://www.dot.state.il.us/Email/Email.asp?from=1