US Highway 66

The Mother Road

  [US 66]

US 66 Exhibit at the Smithsonian


Who doesn't know about Route 66? Next to the ancient Silk Road, it is arguably the most famous highway ever to exist, possibly even outshining the former. Like the Oregon trail, Route 66 carried latter day pioneers to the great West in search of the promise of a better life. When it still existed, it was a national phenomenon and now that it is gone (though not in spirit!) it has become an international phenomenon. All of this is deservedly so since it was one of the most significant roads of our time and did much to capture the spirit of America. In fact, the Smithsonian has an exhibit dedicated to Route 66, which to my knowledge is the only one devoted entirely to a single highway. What has always amazed me is that it gained such fame and such recognition in a very short time. Route 66 existed as a signed highway for only 59 years, from 1926 to 1985, but it has gained fame and endearment beyond its years.

US 66 at a Glance

Original Routing

US 66 went from Chicago to Santa Monica, going through the heart of the Great Plains and through the barren Southwest. It started at Lakeshore Drive near Grant Park in Chicago, then headed toward the southwest out of Chicago, approximating the route of I-55 to St. Louis, MO. From there it followed I-44 to Oklahoma City where it headed almost due west along its successor I-40. It followed I-40 through New Mexico, Arizona, and California to Barstow, when it made a sea change in direction and headed almost due south toward the Los Angles Basin along what is now I-15. Once it entered the basin, it followed Cajon Blvd, which was replaced by what is now I-215. In San Bernardino, it made another sea change in direction, once again heading due west along what is now CA SR-66. This last signed portion of 66 does the highway no justice, but at least it's there. From San Dimas it continued along Foothill Blvd, Huntington Park Dr, then Colorado Blvd. When it reached Pasadena it headed south along Figueroa St. (later US 66A); once the historic Pasadena Fwy (Arroyo Seco Pkwy) was completed in 1940, it carried the US 66 shield. US 66 then intersected US 101 and the two remained co-signed to the heart of Hollywood. From there, US 66 headed toward the ocean along Santa Monica Blvd, finally ending on top of the bluffs at Ocean Ave in Santa Monica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is a plaque commemorating US 66 and tying it in with Will Rodgers, the beloved comedian and pundit.

Current Status Outside of California

Much to the consternation of fans everywhere, US 66 has been completely decommissioned. The last leg, in Williams, AZ, was bypassed by I-40 in 1984 and was officially decommissioned by AASHTO soon after. There are many stretches that still exist and some are even signed as SR-66. In the past few years a lot of effort has been made to preserve and sign the remaining portions, which has been topped by Arizona's program of Historic US 66 highway signing.

Current Status in California

Only a small portion of US 66 remains as a signed highway - however it is now SR-66 which runs between San Dimas and San Bernardino. US 66 was eliminated as a legislative route in 1964, but it remained signed until the completion of I-40 in 1972. Almost all of the original routing is now marked by signs indicating its status as an historic route.

Intersections With Other US Highways

US 66 Photo Album

My US 66 Photo Album features several historical photographs that are not found on other Route 66 pages. Since much of US 66 overlapped other California US highways, I have combined it with other US routes.

Los Angeles Area. This includes pictures of US 66A, a short section of highway that included the Colorado Fwy, the Pasadena Fwy, and pictures of the historic Four Level Interchange near downtown Los Angeles.

Cajon Pass. This is a very historic location that marks a major entry into Southern California from the rest of the United States.

Needles and the Colorado River. This includes pictures of the Red Rock Bridge and the Pioneer Bridge, and features a picture of the former under construction in 1890.

US 66 Links

I have decided not to create a US 66 guide since many others have created some excellent ones which are a lot more complete than anything I could hope write about the old route. However, I am including links to some other pages which cover a lot of detail. I suggest visiting the California Route 66 Association's page as well as Swa Frantzen's.

[Historic Highways Logo]
Go to the Historic California US Highways Main Page

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