House approves Route 66 Commission to ramp up Oklahoma’s “Mother Road” experience 

May 20, 2022 | Headlines

OKLAHOMA CITY – With the centennial of Route 66 fast approaching, communities and businesses may soon apply for state funding to preserve and further develop Route 66.

House Bill 4457, authored by Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa, and co-authored by Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, creates the Oklahoma Route 66 Commission, which will consider and approve projects to maximize the long-term economic potential of Route 66 in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is home to the longest drivable stretch of the “Mother Road” with more than 400 miles.

The bill also creates the Oklahoma Route 66 Commission Revolving Fund, which will designate monies to approved projects for the purpose of preserving and developing Route 66. The fund may receive up to $6,600,000 per year. 

U.S. Highway 66 stretches from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, ending in Santa Monica. After the highway was established in 1926, it became a famous route from the Midwest to the Pacific coast after being commemorated in music, movies, TV shows and literature. 

“With the longest continuous stretch of Route 66 in the nation, the highway and its travelers have a huge economic impact within our state,” Lawson said. “House Bill 4457 will encourage Oklahomans to preserve and develop businesses and sites along Route 66 as we prepare for the centennial and look forward to the next 100 years.” 

Under HB4457, the Commission shall consist of nine members: the executive director of the Oklahoma Dept. of Transportation, the executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Dept., one Governor appointee, three appointees by the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate, and three appointees by the Speaker of the House.   

“Route 66 is a natural economic development opportunity that, if properly leveraged, can have significant long term financial benefits to the entire state,”  Blancett said. “Travelers who come to Oklahoma to enjoy the Mother Road experience, stay for at least a week and many times, longer and travel not just on Route 66, but to many areas nearby.”

“The opening of Route 66 in 1926 marked a golden age for Oklahoma,” Waldron said. “The creation of this commission taps into a deep cultural well and creates opportunities for economic development and tourism that will provide jobs for Oklahoma families. This is good news, not just for the many Oklahomans who live along the highway, but for the whole state.” 

HB4457 passed the House 72-6 on Wednesday and is now eligible to be heard by the Senate.