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Illinois county taking next steps for establishing Route 66 corridor June 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Restaurants, Signs.
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Will County, Illinois, near Chicago, is about to take the next steps in transforming Illinois Highway 53 into more of an attraction for Route 66 tourists, reported Shaw Media.

The 20-mile stretch of Illinois 53 runs from about Interstate 80 in Joliet to Braidwood.

Larazza said more than 30 businesses and other stakeholders involved in the project will meet later this month to discuss next steps. That includes adding signage along Route 66, Interstate 80 and Interstate 57 to steer drivers toward key destinations. [...]

The county’s land use department also is in talks with BNSF Railway and the Illinois Department of Transportation seeking approval to paint a mural on one or two railroad overpasses along Route 53 to create a gateway to the road, Larazza said. [...]

New attractions would also be added. Some ideas include an observation tower for the Wilmington’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and a major bike trail connecting the Kankakee River Trail, Wauponsee Glacial Trail, the I&M Canal State Trail and Centennial Trail to one another.

The Gemini Giant statue in Wilmington and the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In restaurant in Braidwood were mentioned in the story as existing Route 66 attractions. County officials think adding attractions along the stretch would complement those landmarks and make Illinois 53 more attractive to tourists.

The county hasn’t come up with a name for the Illinois 53 corridor, although Will 66, Route 66 Prairies, Route 66 Stops and Prairies @ 66 have been suggested.

The story didn’t mention it, but I strongly suspect the Route 66 Economic Impact Study — namely, that Route 66 tourism creates $127 million in business annually — played a role in this proposal.

(Image of Brian Marsh at the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In in Braidwood, Illinois, via Flickr)

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