A bipartisan bill that would designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail and provide more funding for preservation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.
“By designating Route 66 as a National Historic Trail, this legislation would revitalize cities, small towns and rural communities along the Route 66 corridor in New Mexico and across the country, bolstering local economies and protecting vibrant historic sites,” Senate Bill 3609 sponsor U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said in a news release.
“Just as importantly, this bill would safeguard Route 66 as a cultural landmark, preserving its significance as the ‘Main Street of America’ for future generations of adventurers, migrants, hitchhikers, and tourists venturing westward.”
The bill’s other sponsor is U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma. His state is home to 400 miles of Route 66.
“Route 66 deserves recognition as a National Historic Trail,” Inhofe said in the release. “Oklahoma is home to the longest drivable stretch of ‘America’s Main Street,’ which earned its name from decades of connecting small businesses and rural communities with visitors from around the country.”
SB 3609 is identical to House Resolution 801, which was passed unanimously in June. The measure was sent to the Senate, where it stalled in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. That same committee is considering SB 3609.
Should the full Senate pass SB 3609, it would not have to go through the language resolution process in committee before it is placed on President Donald Trump’s desk. Route 66: The Road Head Partnership said that means the Senate bill could become law before the year is out.
If the Senate fails to pass the measure, the matter will likely have to wait until at least the next Congress begins in January.
The push to save Route 66 has slowly been gaining speed, especially after the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the road to its annual list of America’s most endangered historic places in June.
The route and its surroundings are funded in part by associations in the eight states it traverses and grants from the National Park Service. Under the Senate measure, the National Park Service would be in charge of preservation and maintenance.
The trust argued that unless Congress takes action, Route 66 could continue to fall victim to more direct travel routes until it is left to all but the history books.