Congressman Davis passes bill on Route 66 centennial
‘Most Famous Road in America’ to celebrate 100 years in 2026
By Ted Cox
The path to bipartisanship in Congress leads, appropriately enough, down the “Main Street of America.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis trumpeted bipartisan passage of a bill to celebrate the nation’s iconic Route 66 on Wednesday. Davis’s bill sets a course to celebrate the “Mother Road” for its centennial in 2026 and preserve it after that.
Calling Route 66 “a symbol of American independence and prosperity,” the Taylorville Republican said on the House floor Wednesday, “I am proud to have America’s most iconic road run through the middle of my district and it’s important we celebrate its history.”
Labeled, also appropriately, House Resolution 66 by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Route 66 Centennial Commission Act authorizes the creation of a commission to celebrate the road’s 100th anniversary in 2026 and ensure its preservation.
In the days before the interstate highway system, Route 66 ran from Chicago to the West Coast, leading directly to the Santa Monica pier in California. It achieved lasting fame in the 1946 song written by Bobby Troup, which listed the major cities along the route and was later covered by Nat “King” Cole, Chuck Berry, and the Rolling Stones, to name just a few.
The interstates made U.S. Route 66 obsolete and eventually led to its official deceritification, as many small towns were left behind by high-speed traffic that raced by without an exit. But in recent decades its course has been revived and celebrated with nostalgia.
The annual spring Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festival running between Joliet and Towanda is just one of many local events celebrating Route 66. One of the road’s major boosters was Illinois native Bob Waldmire, who designed a mural tracing the route that still stands in Pontiac. Waldmire, who had a Volkswagen bus that would later serve as the inspiration for the character of Fillmore in the Pixar animated “Cars” film series, also celebrated the road with a bookshelf dedicated to his father in the Cozy Dog restaurant in Springfield, a family-owned drive-in which used to be located on Route 66.
According to Davis, it was the first fully paved roadway under the U.S. highway system.
Davis sponsored the bill as the new ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, and he cited a trip he took along the road two years ago with Congressman Darin LaHood. “I had the opportunity to personally witness the economic impact of the Mother Road throughout my district and Rep. LaHood's district,” Davis said. “They support many jobs and key economic activity in many of our smaller rural communities that we are blessed enough to represent. This keeps many of those communities alive economically.”
He specifically mentioned the Pink Elephant Antique Mall in Livingston and the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville.
Here is Davis’s speech on the House floor Wednesday.