Route 66 also colloquially known as ‘The Main Street of America’ or ‘The Mother Road’ was the most famous highway of the United States of America. It crossed the country from Illinois (Chicago) through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona to California (Los Angeles). It is 3,945 km long (2,451 miles). It was built in 1926 but is no longer in use since 1985. It was championed by the businessman Cyrus Avery who wanted to contribute to the establishment of a Federal Highway System. Even if it was meant to be called Route ‘60’, he himself settled on the number of the road arguing that ‘66’ would be easy to remember as well as pleasant to say and hear.
Route 66 became famous in the 1930’s during the Dust Bowl which was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands. In those years, migrants from east to west used to take this road. Merchants along the road became prosperous as there were more and more people passing through. This is one of the reasons why those same people later struggled to keep the highway in use. However the road declined in the early 1980’s. Indeed as highway engineering became more sophisticated, engineers constantly sought more direct routes between cities and towns. After World War II, The Mother Road was to endure many major and minor realignments due to the increasing traffic.
Even though it has no longer been in use since 1985, it is still possible to drive on certain parts of Route 66. Some stretches are quite well preserved and some sections still retain their historic eight-foot-wide "sidewalk highway" form, never having been resurfaced to make them into full-width highways. In the 1990’s many Route 66 associations were founded in states crossed by the above-mentioned road, whose goal was to declare it as a ‘State Historic Route'. Nowadays, Route 66 is still very famous. It is part of our popular culture, by both a hit song and a television show. It has also been recently used by Pixar in their animated movie ‘Cars’ in 2006.
- Ludivine & Nolan