More than 10 years ago MoDOT set its sights on the impact that Route 66 has on Missouri.
In a 484-page study of the Interstate 44 corridor across Missouri, MoDOT engineers said preserving Route 66 intact, as a companion route to I-44, was a requisite.
Now MoDOT has announced plans to resurface Route 66, Osage Street, through Pacific from the St. Louis County line west to Route 100 in the year 2020.
At the same time, MoDOT will widen the westbound I-44 off-ramp to two lanes and widen both westbound off-ramps and resurface Viaduct Street.
The long-range study identified road conditions from Pacific to the Oklahoma state line and predicted traffic to double by 2035.
A key feature of the study was to validate the companionship of I-44 and Route 66, which run parallel to each other. Nowhere is this more true than in Pacific where motorists on Route 66 can see motorists on I-44 and vise versa.
US 66 was one of the original federal routes, established in 1926 from Chicago, Ill., to Los Angeles, for a total of 2,448 miles. It was decommissioned on June 27, 1985, replaced by the Interstate Highway System.
“This ribbon of highway may be the most famous road in the world. In Missouri, I-44 parallels, and has largely replaced, this roadway,” the study said. “The old highway closely follows the route of an ancient pre-Civil War stage line and today, it parallels and zigzags across Interstate 44.”
For motorists who prefer the interstate, every exit will lead to within a moment’s drive of original Route 66.
Missouri has more miles of the old highway under state management than any other state and Pacific is traversed from city limit to city limit by one of the best identified and preserved sections of Route 66 in the state.
As the section of Route 66 reached Pacific, local business people staked their claim to the expected stream of motorists.
Businesses that sprang up included the Red Cedar Inn and William Oswald’s Gas Station, which was said to be pumping gas before the concrete for Route 66 was poured. The structure would later house Miller Sandwich Shop.
The Nativity Scene in the bluff caves brought streams of vehicles motoring out from St. Louis to see the lighted attraction, becoming the city’s first tourist attraction.
MoDOT engineers said their study showed that Route 66 had become ingrained into the psyche of the nation.
“Among its cultural implications are its representation of the optimism of the American spirit, the freedom of the open road and the manifestation of major population distributions that characterizes the 20th century,” the study said.
Helping MoDOT to reach its conclusions about the value of Route 66, the Route 66 Association of Missouri attended the public meeting. Association members include business people and cultural historians, nostalgia seekers and car buffs.
The conclusion of the meeting was that most Route 66 stakeholders wanted the route to remain intact.
On July 10, 1990, the governor of Missouri signed House Bill 1629 designating Old U.S. Highway 66 as a historic highway in Missouri, and allowing MoDOT to post appropriate signs along the right of way.
Between MoDOT and the Route 66 Association of Missouri, Historic Route 66 signs were posted along the entire length of the highway in Missouri.
Judy Wagner, MoDOT area engineer, said resurfacing this section of Route 66 would conclude rebuilding the roadway across the state.
As highways go, Route 66 holds a special place in the hearts and minds of motorists, according to Wagner.
“It’s part of our history and we love it,” she said.