Historic US Highway 66
The Mother Road.
The road that needs no introduction, Route 66, ran from Illinois to California. Commissioned and Certified in 1926, it became famous in the 1930's for those escaping the dust bowl-ridden prairies to seek a better life westward, namely California with it's agriculture-friendly soil and climate, earning the nickname from John Steinbeck of 'The Mother Road'. Many escapees were turned away, however, at what are now modern day California agriculture checks. The road rose to further popularity in the 1940's with the song (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 sang by the King Cole Trio, encouraging people to take Route 66 if they wanted to travel westward. Naming off some of the larger cities between the route's termination points in Chicago and Los Angeles, each was touched by the song's power when motorists did, in fact, 'motor west' to California.
The Hollywood Freeway (US 101, US 66) reaches it's southern terminus with the Santa Ana Freeway. Here, US 66 leave the route and travels northwest along the Pasadena Freeway, then former and now current Arroyo Seco Parkway. This would be the modern junction of US 101 and SR 110. Image courtesy of AARoads, original image credit unknown.
The road remained a very important artery between the midwest and the western United States for trade. Running almost 2500 miles, the road crossed prairies, mountains and desert to arrive at it's destination. For more then a decade, large portions of the road were still dirt. This changed in 1938 when the final 23 mile portion from Adrian, TX to Glenrio, NM was paved.
The road was handed it's first deathblow in 1953 when Oklahoma opened the Turner Turnpike, running from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. This effectively supplemented the entire route with a tolled, limited-access, high speed highway. (This road was later given the designation of Interstate 44.) As it was becoming the Freeway State, Route 66 was a natural target for California to upgrade. From Victorville to San Bernardino, the road was first upgraded to an expressway, and eventually a freeway from Barstow to San Bernardino. US 66 was also routed along the Arroyo Seco Parkway, the first freeway in the west, before being dumped off onto Sunset Blvd (later the Hollywood Freeway) to Santa Monica where it ended at the ocean. It's original alignment ran down Broadway to 7th St in downtown.
Entering California via Needles, most of Route 66 follows much of I-40 through the Mojave Desert, except for two key alignments, both merging at I-40. It diverts 10 miles south of I-40, leveling out near Amboy, before heading back north to meet I-40 in Barstow. The original alignment picked up US 91 at 1st Ave and continued west. It then took Main St to National Old Trails Road through Helendale, before entering Victorville as D St, creating a south-bound loop following the Santa Fe Railroad. It then heads southwest on 7th St and merges onto modern I-15 for it's decent down to the Inland Empire, but not before US 395 joined the road in Hesperia. Through the pass, the trio followed Cajon Blvd south, which became Mount Vernon Blvd entering into San Bernardino. Later, all three routes were moved to a freeway alignment, and shared signage with their eventual replacement: I-15.
At 4th St (later 5th St), US 66 headed due west, co-routed with North US 99 for about 10 years, while South US 99 joined US 91 and 395 and continued south along Mt Vernon Ave. 5th Street becomes Foothill Blvd, also part of the National Trails Road. We pass California's Madonna of the Trail in Upland, symbolizing the strength of women. Installed by the National Old Trails Road Committee, part of the Daughters of the American Revolution, these statues are dedicated to all the women who helped make the new land home for their families. Installed and dedicated between 1928 and 1929, one was installed in each of the states along the old trail totaling twelve statues. Upland's is one of only two left it's original position, located at the historic intersection of Euclid Ave and Foothill Blvd (SR 83 and US 66, respectively).
US 66 has been completely decommissioned in California since the 1970's when I-40 was completed. Like most US Highways that were decommissioned in California, US 66 had a remnant that was signed as a State Route. That road, SR 66, ran from SR 30 (modern SR 210) in La Verne to I-15 (later I-15E and modern I-215) in San Bernardino, defined in 1964. Most of this road was returned to local authorities in the 2000s, however. Most recently, San Bernardino County has reestablished part of the road as a county road, running from Oro Grande (near Victorville) to Needles.
The Mother Road has been primarily supplemented by the following highways in California:
- I-40 from Needles to Barstow
- I-15 from Barstow to Devore
- I-215 from Devore to San Bernardino
- SR 210 from San Bernardino to San Dimas OR
- SR 66/Former SR 66 from San Bernardino to San Dimas OR
- I-10 from San Bernardino to San Dimas
- I-210 from San Dimas to Pasadena
- SR 110 from Pasadena to Los Angeles
- SR 2 from Los Angeles to Santa Monica