Missouri’s historic Route 66 wants to receive “designation” approval as a United States Bicycle Route. Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is leading the request to make this happen and Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, Route 66 tourism organizations, and local and national cycling advocates all support MoDOT’s endeavors in this.

Beth Wiles, CDME, Executive Director at the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau, where Route 66 runs through the heart of the county, sees the advantage to this.

“This could be a huge win for the Route, Missouri and our communities. Thousands travel the Route via walking, cycling, skating...with the added features of being clearly marked and opportunities for added safety measures this will be a new opportunity to market the Route to these types of travelers and increase those tourist numbers. Cycling has a huge following and we would join the ranks of other cycling trails in Maine, Vermont, Utah...not to mention the other Missouri trails; Katy Trail and the Rock Island Trail that is being developed,” Wiles said.

Mark Spangler, the Route 66 Museum Curator in Lebanon, knows of the current dangers along Historic Route 66, “I am not familiar with this issue, so I don’t know what that designation would accomplish. If it would provide funding for a bicycle lane along the shoulder of the route then I would see the value. There is already a good deal of bicycle traffic, but it is actually very dangerous for those who attempt such trave! On much of the highway there are no shoulders at all, with dangerous hills and curves, not to mention larger vehicles zipping by at 55 mph. Until more bicycle-friendly stretches are developed, I would hate to further promote it.”

After research on this topic, Spangler wrote, in an email, “I still believe it promotes an activity that is very dangerous overall, and I also have mixed feelings about the source of funding for signage (which is apt to become an ongoing expense). Public funds are tight everywhere today.”

The United States Bicycle Route System is the cycling network of America. According to a letter and information sent to Route 66 organizations by Patrick Tuttle, CDME, Director of Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, “The United States Bicycle Route System (USBRS) is the national cycling route network of the United States. It consists of interstate long-distance cycling routes which connect multiple types of bicycling infrastructure; including off-road paths, bicycle lanes, and low-traffic roads. As with the U.S. Numbered Highways system for motorists, each U.S. Bicycle Route is maintained by state and local governments. The USBRS is intended to eventually traverse the entire country like similar networks that span Europe.”

Tuttle wrote, “A central purpose of the U.S. bicycle route numbering and marking system is to facilitate travel between the states over routes which have been identified as being more suitable than others for cycling. A bicycle route is any road, street, path or way which in some manner is specifically designated as being open to bicycle travel, regardless of whether such facilities are designated for the exclusive use of bicycles or are to be shared with other transportation modes.”

Tuttle’s letter discusses the benefit of a U.S. Bicycle Route: “A U.S. Bicycle Route has a direct impact on the communities it passes through by offering planned, identified connectivity alternatives, and recreational and health opportunities. Regionally, it encourages transportation and tourism gateways such as history and agriculture trails. Statewide, a designated US Bicycle Route connects communities globally with riders who may never have visited (much less heard of) small town Missouri.”

Now MoDOT wants the community’s support. According to Tuttle’s letter, “Route 66 organizations are asked to request their local and state officials to support MoDOT’s effort to finalize, then submit a Request for Designation to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Route Marking Committee for the Missouri portion of the US Bicycle Route 66.”

Receiving the designation has a significant meaning, according to Tuttle. Receiving “designation means the route could be formally mapped and signed throughout the state providing great assistance to cyclist crossing our state.”

Tuttle warned that the requests “must be submitted by April 2018 for consideration at the May, AASHTO Spring Meeting. If approved, this would give Missouri its second designated bicycle route.”

Tuttle noted Missouri’s first designated bicycle route, “In late 2013 Missouri received approval to designate U.S. Bike Route 76 (The TransAm), a route over 300 miles long which passes through the southern third of the state. The Missouri section is part of the national bicycle route that was created in 1976 for the BikeCentennial. U.S. Bike Route 76 is 18 miles north of Joplin and runs between Golden City and Pittsburg, KS.”

Tuttle wrote, “The work that needs to be accomplished:

1) MoDOT will need letters of agreement/support from the agencies where the USBR 66 is on city and county maintained roadways, and not on State maintained roadways. Local Legislators could be of assistance by starting and supporting the conversation about the benefits of a USBR through a community/county, and encourage local agencies to be in support the effort.

2) The project, through MoDOT could also use some sort of State-level funding from the General Revenue, Tourism, Economic Development, or a combination of sources to fund the statewide signing package; estimated at around $200K. MoDOT will also need to fund a rather significant inventory of replacement signs – knowing “66” on any type of signage often disappears from highway signposts. Once exact dollar estimates are known by city and county, some funds could be raised from local sources and/or private donors to help with the overall signing effort.

3) MoDOT, along with tourism and cycling advocates envision supportive elected-officials taking part in various ribbon cutting ceremonies to be held as signing sectors have been completed.

A goal of making a formal announcement that Missouri has received the route ‘designation’ is for Sunday, June 17th (Father’s Day) in Joplin.”