A bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Illinois would establish Route 66 as the United States’ 20th National Historic Trail. If the bill, H.R. 801, becomes law, the National Trails System Act of 1968 would be amended to include the “Mother Road.”
And that could be a very good thing for the iconic roadway.
When Route 66 was decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985, it lost much of its federal support. A National Historic Trail designation would provide the roadway with “a permanent program to preserve, promote, and economically develop it,” LaHood said.
In order qualify for the designation, a trail must meet three criteria, according to the National Trails System Act of 1968, which says:
It must be a trail or route established by historic use and must be historically significant as a result of that use. The route need not currently exist as a discernible trail to qualify, but its location must be sufficiently known to permit evaluation of public recreation and historical interest potential.
It must be of national significance with respect to any of several broad facets of American history, such as trade and commerce, exploration, migration and settlement, or military campaigns. To qualify as nationally significant, historic use of the trail must have had a far-reaching effect on broad patterns of American culture.
It must have significant potential for public recreational use or historical interest based on historic interpretation and appreciation. The potential for such use is generally greater along roadless segments developed as historic trails and at historic sites associated with the trail.
About Route 66
The Mother Road’s historical significance is well documented.
Route 66 was officially established as a U.S. Highway in 1926 and was taken out of commission in 1985 after the famed road was gradually replaced by the Interstate system. During those 59 years, “America’s Main Street” was the country’s most famous east-west corridor. Mom-and-pop diners, motels, gift shops, and even entire towns sprouted up along Route 66. It became as synonymous with Americana as the American hot rod.