New signage for old Route 66
follows 1926-1930 path
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[NOV. 19, 2003]  The old highway once wound its way across America. Route 66 was made famous in song and on television, but what really made the road famous were the people and the attractions that lined it. Lincoln was a part of that famous highway, and as renewed interest in Route 66 is growing, Lincoln is again playing its role and hopes to once again attract tourists as they travel the winding road.

This past Thursday, Nov. 13, crews from the Lincoln Streets Department worked to mount new signage marking a former alignment of U.S. Route 66 through the community.

On Tuesday one last sign was installed for the dedication. A group of Route 66 representatives and local officials, including City Clerk Melanie Riggs representing Mayor Elizabeth Davis, gathered to dedicate the new signs. City Streets Department Superintendent Tracy Jackson and Larry Schaub were on hand to install the sign at the corner of Postville and Stringer avenues (on Business 55 at the back corner of LDC).

Other people present at the dedication were Ernie Edwards of the Route 66 Association, Bob Borowiak and Charles Ott. Local historian Paul Gleason, who was also involved in the project, was unable to attend.

"I've wanted these signs for years," former Lincoln restaurateur and Route 66 legend Ernie Edwards stated. "Why, back in those days these roads were booming with business, and all that traffic went right through town. Once the bypass was built, things really changed. These signs can help bring some of that traffic back."

The new markers designate the path of the historic route between 1926 and 1930, which many residents recognize as Business 55. The signs begin at the intersection of Lincoln Parkway and Kickapoo Street, then head south through Lincoln's historic downtown district, past the Postville Courthouse and the Lincoln Developmental Center. Formerly, the only Route 66 signage followed the 1950 to 1977 alignments along Lincoln Parkway. The loop created by the new signage reconnects with Lincoln Parkway near Old Union Cemetery.


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Thressia Usherwood, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, noted that thousands of travelers are driving Route 66 and never see what we have to offer in the heart of Lincoln.

"When I found out it was possible to sign alternative routes, I jumped at the chance," she said. "I knew it would be a great opportunity for the attractions and businesses along the road, especially in the downtown area."

The process, facilitated by the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project, involved a cooperative effort between the city, the tourism bureau, a number of interested local history buffs and the Illinois Department of Transportation. Research for the project began nearly eight months ago with the collection of vintage photos and oral histories from individuals who remembered the roadway.

Patty Kuhn, executive director of the Route 66 Heritage Project, joined the group for the dedication. "We're working hard to promote travel of Route 66 in Illinois, and we know the number of visitors is on the rise," she said. "Signing this corridor opens the door for renewed development and offers Route 66 travelers an entirely new experience in Lincoln." The Heritage Project helps communities discover a new identity, she added.

Kuhn also thanked parties involved in Route 66 projects: the Route 66 Association for working hard to keep the road alive and the Illinois Department of Transportation for providing the signs to the city.

As the dedication closed, Kuhn presented Thressia Usherwood with a souvenir Route 66 license plate, which Usherwood proudly accepted, saying that she would keep it in the window at her office.

[Don Todd]

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