Missouri is preparing for one of the biggest birthday parties in the state’s history when Route 66 turns 100 in November 2026.
Although it is still several years away, a Route 66 Centennial Commission was endorsed by then Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, by signing legislation sponsored by former State Rep. Lyndall Fraker, R-Marshfield.
The 2018 bill creating the Route 66 commission specified it would be composed of 18 members who reflect the interests, history and importance of the communities along Route 66 in Missouri.
Of the 18 members, two members will be appointed by several state officials including the Speaker of the House, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the president pro tem of the Senate and others.
On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who has been performing the functions of governor while Mike Parson had been in Europe on a trade mission, appointed two members as well.
The duties of the commission are to plan and sponsor official Route 66 centennial events, programs and activities, to encourage the development of programs designed to involve citizens in commemorative activities and events, and to make available public information about commemorative events happening throughout the state.
Before June 30, 2027, a final report on the commission’s activities must be delivered to the governor and the commission will dissolve on that date.
The Mother Road, which stretches 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles encompassing eight states.
Portions of the old Route 66 can still be traveled in many portions of Franklin County winding from Pacific, through St. Clair southwest to Sullivan essentially paralleling Interstate 44.
In St. Louis, Route 66 wound its way through a number of alignments, including the Chain of Rocks and McKinley bridges, Chouteau Avenue, Tucker Boulevard, Gravois Avenue, Chippewa Street and Manchester Road and stretched west through Wildwood and Eureka to the Franklin County border.
In Illinois, Route 66 roughly followed the route that is now Interstate 55.
In February 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to create a federal Route 66 Centennial Commission as well.
House Resolution 66 also known as the Route 66 Centennial Commission Act was sponsored by Springfield Ill., area Congressman Rodney Davis will not only set a committee to celebrate the Route 66 century mark, but will make efforts to preserve its history across the nation.
The resolution directs the Department of Transportation shall prepare a plan on the preservation needs of Route 66.
Like Missouri, the federal commission will terminate no later than June 30, 2027.
The bill language also lays out a number of key historic facts about the significance of Route 66 and why it should be preserved.
• Route 66 was the nation’s first all-paved highway under the U.S. Highway System connecting the Midwest to California and has played a major role in the history of the United States.
• Route 66 was the symbol of opportunity to hundreds of thousands of people seeking escape from the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, serving as a “road to opportunity” in the West and providing employment during the Great Depression, as thousands were put to work on road crews to pave the road.
• Route 66 was invaluable in transporting troops, equipment, and supplies across the country to the West, where the government established multiple industries and armed force bases during World War II. Upon the conclusion of the war in 1945, Route 66 was a key route taken by thousands of troops as they returned home.
• Route 66 symbolized the nation’s positive outlook during the postwar economic recovery in the 1950s and 1960s, serving as an icon of free-spirited independence and linking people across the United States. During this period, the tourist industry along Route 66 grew tremendously, giving rise to countless tourist courts, motels, service stations, garages, and diners.
• Since June 27, 1985, when Route 66 was decommissioned as a federal highway, the popularity and mythical stature of Route 66 has grown domestically and internationally, as the road has experienced a rebirth of interest and support.
• The year 2026 will be the centennial anniversary of Route 66, and a commission should be established to study and recommend to Congress activities that are fitting and proper to celebrate that anniversary in a manner that appropriately honors America’s Mother Road.