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Route 66 in Mojave may reopen by late November October 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Highways, Preservation, Weather.
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Long sections of historic Route 66 that were closed in mid-September because of extensive flood damage may reopen by late November, reported The Press-Enterprise.

The newspaper had more details about the damage:

In some spots there are holes large enough to swallow one of the motorcycles belonging to tourist groups that regularly retrace the Western route.

Those travelers and others now have to detour off of Route 66 between Newberry Springs and Needles, taking I-40 instead. San Bernardino County officials estimate it will take $1.4 million to fix the damage. [...]

Brendon Biggs is deputy director of operations for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Works. He’s overseeing a workforce of 20 to 30 people making repairs to Route 66.

“Right now it’s high on the priority list,” Biggs said. “We want to get the road open.”
The flooding that hit the region was almost unprecedented, he said.

“We had multiple locations of severe damage,” he said. “We had approximately 40 bridges damaged in some way along with the road surface itself.”

The newspaper talked to several businesspeople in the desert who are suffering because travelers either can’t get to them or are deciding to bypass that area altogether on Interstate 40 between Needles, California, and Newberry Springs, California. That would include the small settlements of Essex, Amboy, Chambless, Cadiz, Goffs and Ludlow.

One Route 66 News reader recently took a few images of damaged roads and bridges in that area.

Biggs said even when Route 66 finally reopens, the county will have to eventually replace some bridges. He said the highway contains 127 timber bridges built in the 1930s, and replacing them will take longer because the improved structures will have to fit the road’s historic context. But when it finally happens, the road will wash out less often.

In the interim, many of those bridges will be limited to vehicles three tons or less in weight. That leaves out big RVs and tour buses — not an insignificant part of Route 66 tourism.

Amboy and its flagship business Roy’s still can be accessed from Interstate 40 through Kelbaker Road. You can check San Bernardino County’s progress in fixing the highway through this web page.

The part of the article that stings most is when the Press-Enterprise reporter talks to a clerk at the Desert Oasis gas station, just off Interstate 40 near Essex.

She said she recently had a conversation with a man from France who told her how much he and other Europeans revere the road.

“He said, ‘We don’t understand why you don’t take care of it,’” she said.

(Image of “Road Closed” sign by The Local People Photo Archive via Flickr)

New road would partly restore old section of Route 66 October 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History, Maps.
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Rolla, Missouri

The Phelps County commissioners may apply for a grant to build a north outer road near Interstate 44 that would partially restore an old section of Route 66 near Rolla, Missouri, according to The Leader Journal newspaper in St. James, Missouri.

The new section of road would run between U.S. 63 and Missouri Highway V. The board would apply for $452,000 through the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Community Development Block Grant program. Phelps County would give $131,000 and the City of Rolla another $37,500. If the county gets the grant, it would take about 21 months to build the road.

A key excerpt from the story:

Commissioners have stated that a new north outer road would improve driver safety, alleviate traffic through residential neighborhoods in the Northwye area, reduce heavy truck traffic on county roads, open the area for development, improve the appearance of the area and restore the original historic Route 66 path.

Currently, a north outer road starts at Highway V and turns into County Road 2020. From there, travelers can access Highway 63 via County Road 2000.

A preliminary drawing created by Hargis shows that the new outer road would run parallel to I-44 from where the state maintenance ends west of Route V to the east end of County Road 2000.

It turns out that the new road does not restore the original Route 66 in that part of the county. I asked Jerry McClanahan, a Route 66 researcher and author of the “Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers” guidebook to check into it. In short, he found the county’s proposed new road would restore a late 1940s or 1950s section of Route 66, not the original alignment.

The original section of Route 66 between U.S. 63 and Highway V follows what now is County Road 2020 (see Google Maps screen capture above). That section remains accessible today, and is marked as Historic U.S. 66 locally.

The proposed north outer road, McClanahan says, would reconnect a dead end of County Road 2000, which is the updated alignment of Route 66, circa 1950 (see screen shot of Google Maps above). That’s about 2,000 feet of new road. But the real part of that remains buried under I-44.

McClanahan sent me documentation from original maps from those eras to back his assertions.

So the county board thought it was doing a good deed for Route 66 travelers. It turns out it was still good — just not as good as they apparently thought it was.

(Image of a section of Route 66 in Rolla, Missouri, by Dustin Holmes via Flickr)

Route 66 in Mojave may be closed for months October 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Highways, Towns, Weather.
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can't get there from here. 2014.

Severe seasonal flooding closed a section of old Route 66 between Essex and Ludlow in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, and it may be weeks or even months before it reopens, according to one news source in the area.

Zachnews, based in Needles, California, reports more than 40 bridges and some of the Route 66 roadbed between Goffs and Ludlow were damaged by raging floodwaters after monsoon rains about Sept. 7.

Most of the time, these desert roads are closed a few days until bulldozers move debris out of the way, which is why I didn’t think much about it when the closure occurred. But Tuesday, Zachnews made it clear the situation is much more than temporary:

Several residents of Needles, California who recently traveled from Twentynine Palms, California and Goffs, California tell ZachNews that portions of Route 66 still remain closed and had to use other roads to get around the closures.

The storm damage includes damage of the highway’s asphalt and some bridges have had their flow abutments washed out and are in need of new timber for support and flow alignment.

The hardest hit by the road closures because of storm damage to the Route 66 was reportedly is to Amboy, California which has been working hard to build up and bring in tourists over drive along the historic and world famous highway.

When repaired and reopened, portions of Route 66 from Ludlow, California to Amboy, California will have signs posted with a maximum vehicle weight of only 3-tons.

Personal vehicles will be allow to travel on Route 66, but will restricts Class C and larger Class A recreational vehicles and buses from driving on those marked portions of Route 66.

Zachnews also reported that according to the California Department of Transportation, Route 66 from Cadiz to Mountain Springs Road near Goffs is expected to stay closed for at least 2 months. Indeed, a bulletin from San Bernardino County says there is “no anticipated time for reopening,” which is unusual.

About the only good thing from this is the flooding occurred after the peak of tourism season. The Route 66 hamlet of Amboy, California, which is home to the much-photographed and visited Roy’s gas station and convenience store, remains accessible through Kelbaker Road from Interstate 40. Except for that one route, Amboy is essentially cut off.

(Image of a closed Route 66 east of Barstow, California, in Sept. 9 by eyetwist via Flickr)

‘Singing Road’ developed near Albuquerque October 3, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, Music.
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On a stretch of old Route 66 east of Albuquerque is a set of rumble strips that play “America the Beautiful” when you drive over them.

We’ll let KOAT-TV in Albuquerque explain:

The Associated Press reported that Tigress Productions created the road in Tijeras, New Mexico, for a new National Geographic Channel series, “Crowd Control,” that debuts next month. National Geographic paid for everything; no tax money was involved.

If you want to avoid the rumble strips entirely, they’re near the fog line and are easily avoided. But if you want to play that tune, you have to drive a steady 45 mph over the strips to create the effect.

A few other singing highways exist, as this YouTube search will show.

Here’s hoping someone will use the same idea and have the rumble strips play “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66″ instead. It seems a stretch of Mother Road near Seligman, Arizona, would be ideal. Of course, working out the royalties might be a bit tricky. “America the Beautiful” has long passed into the public domain.

(An image of Route 66 road surface by cm_hartman via Flickr)

County will seek grant for Sidewalk Highway October 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, Preservation.
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Ottawa County, Oklahoma, will apply for a $300,000 “Rails to Trails” grant to shore up and ultimately preserve the Route 66 section of the historic Ribbon Road, aka Sidewalk Highway, between Miami and Afton, Oklahoma, reported the Miami News-Record.

The article does a good job explaining the complex issues about preserving the 1922 Sidewalk Highway, which is so called because local highway officials at the time had only enough money to build it 9 feet wide. It served as Route 66 until 1937.

Then, as now, the main problem facing the county is lack of money.

A few points gleaned from the article:

  • County Commissioner Russel Earls said recent heavy rains washed out two portions of the road, requiring quick but temporary repairs. He said road crews grade the washouts and add gravel to halt further deterioration.
  • He estimated the cost of preserving the road includes grinding up the old asphalt inside the curbs and overlaying the pavement. He said with more funding, lanes could be built on either side. He said the original road still is structurally sound.
  • Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director Amanda Davis said talks with the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and the state about preservation plans — including closing the road to keep it from decaying further — have yielded nothing. She said the Sidewalk Highway is in the “top three” for tourism in the area.
  • Earls noted although some rural landowners are against the Rails to Trails idea,real-estate agents are all for it because homeowners having a trail nearby is an attractive selling point.

If Ottawa County applies for a rails-to-trails grant, it probably will have to be through federal channels. The state is Oklahoma is notoriously stingy about funding even basic maintenance for roads and bridges, as a highway engineer acknowledged during the historic Bird Creek Bridge debacle a few years ago.

Engineers also said ODOT had become “reactive, not preventative” with highway and bridge maintenance from 1985 to 2005 because state funding for the agency remained “flat.” That neglect from a 20-year lack of funds greatly shortened the life of bridges, including Bird Creek. Currently, about 400 bridges in the district that includes much of northeastern Oklahoma need repair.

Here’s a video I shot a few years ago of the Afton section of the highway:

(Image of the Sidewalk Highway in September 2013 by Jimmy Emerson via Flickr)

Half-mile section of original Route 66 added to National Register September 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History.
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Original road - Route 66

A half-mile section of original Route 66 near Depew, Oklahoma, was added to the National Register of Historic Places, according to an email from the National Park Service.

The section of road runs east of Milfay Road for 0.46 miles. CLARIFICATION: I had the Google Street View map in the right place, but facing the wrong way. Also, Route 66 historian Jim Ross informs me that section of Route 66 has been open to travelers from Milfay Road for over a year because of a man from Tulsa who cleaned up the property and put an RV park there. The 2011 edition of Ross’ book, “Oklahoma Route 66,” indicated that stretch was inaccessible to travelers.

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This section of road served as Route 66 from 1926 to 1984, according to Ross’ book.

In fact, a lot of original Route 66 can be found between Bristow and Stroud in Oklahoma. Another section, called the Tank Farm Loop, is drivable and listed on the National Register. Here’s a video I produced about it a few years ago:

(Image of a stretch of original Route 66 between Stroud and Depew, Oklahoma, by Janice Duryea via Flickr)

Proposed Chicago park may include Route 66 museum September 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Highways, History, Museums.
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A small lot on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Adams Street in downtown Chicago that’s planned as a Chicago Symphony Orchestra Park may include a small Route 66 museum to recognize its location on Route 66, according to a story in DNAinfo.

The so-called pocket park would sit just west of the Chicago Symphony building. Vanessa Moss, the symphony’s vice president for orchestra and building operations, said the pocket park would be part of an overall plan to revitalize Wabash. According to the article:

Moss said Friday that the CSO could partner with Blue Plate catering to “enhance dining options there and create a really nice oasis for people in the city, and help bring more traffic to the CSO.”

She said the plaza could include a “Route 66 museum” that will explain the site’s historical significance. In 1926, Route 66 started down the street at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street.

Officials didn’t elaborate on what they had planned for the museum, but a rendering did not appear to show a new building on the site. [...]

If funds can be raised on schedule, the CSO hopes to start construction in the early spring and open the park by summer 2015, Moss said.

Based on the artist’s rendering, I suspect it’s not an enclosed “museum” per se, but a few well designed kiosks to tell the Route 66 story in that area.

Swa Frantzen at Historic66.com explains the Route 66 path in that area:

The start of Route 66 has moved a few times. Originally, Route 66 began on Jackson Blvd. at Michigan Ave. In 1933, the start (and end) was moved east onto the reclaimed land for the world fair to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive. In 1955, Jackson Blvd became one way west of Michigan Ave. and Adams St. became the westbound US-66. However the start of US-66 remained on Jackson at Lake Shore Drive.

So, even while currently Adams Street at Michigan Avenue is marked as the starting point, Route 66 never departed from there.

A short distance away in 1977, city workers took down the Route 66 signs at the highway’s eastern terminus at Grant Park at Jackson Drive. Twenty-five years later, Route 66 signs were reinstalled on that spot.

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