Funding for Route 66 just down the road
By DONALD SOMMERFIELD
BARSTOW -- Route 66, "America's Main Street," is about to get help from Congress.
The Route 66 bill, HR 66, co-sponsored by Reps. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, and Heather Wilson, R-N.M., passed unanimously in the House of Representatives Wednesday.
"Route 66 is the premier historic trail of the automobile age," Lewis said.
Jim Specht, press liaison for Lewis, said the bill asks for $10 million in funding for preservation grants to maintain cultural resources along the famous highway.
Now designated Historic U.S. Route 66, the highway stretches from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to Chicago, passing through Victorville and comprising Barstow's Main Street.
"It's a cultural phenomena across the country," Specht said.
He said the bill needs final approval in the Senate, where it originated in slightly different form, sponsored by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
Specht said the bill could pass into law from the Senate floor.
Chris Gallegos, press assistant to Domenici, said only the Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Domenici, will need to review the bill.
"It's basically the same as the House bill but with a few minor adjustments," Gallegos said.
Gallegos said passage could happen at any time, but the Senate has until the second week in August, when Congress recesses.
"We don't foresee any problems getting it passed this time," Gallegos added.
If the bill passes, the Department of Interior, through the National Parks Service, will develop "a program of technical assistance and grants to aid local historic groups and communities along the 2, 2448-mile highway."
The new Route 66 Museum at the Harvey House in Barstow and the Route 66 Museum in Victorville could both benefit from those grants, Specht said.
Barstow City Councilwoman Gloria Darling said the grants will help with the Barstow museum, which already has donations of photos, memorabilia and a car.
The annual Route 66 Rendezvous in San Bernardino attracted 420,000 people last year, making it the largest event in the nation along the highway. Barstow plans to have its own "Main Street USA Run" in September.
Specht said eligible groups would need to match up to 50 percent of the grant money.
Officially, the numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926. For millions of people migrating cross country or on vacation, Route 66 provided person-to-person contact in communities travelers might not have found otherwise.
"As we draw to the close of this century, there is more interest in trying to save Route 66. The time is now to provide tangible means of assistance to preserve this special part of America," Domenici told the Senate in January.
Needles to Victorville
Then and Now