New historical signs are going up along Route 66 in Tulsa and other areas of the state in preparation for the highway’s centennial in 2026.
The signs have a brown background which is used nationally to designate areas of cultural significance.
The words “historic” and “route” will be in white letters, which is a change from the current design that uses black lettering. A historic font pays homage to the early version of the signs and the recognizable US-66 shield is featured.
“Oklahoma has more drivable miles of Route 66 than any other state, making it an easily accessible historic destination which will showcase the signs all around our state,” Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said. “These signs are a low-cost project that will have a major impact for everyone wanting to see what makes Route 66 so special.”
The original path of Route 66 traverses present-day highways, interstates and also local roads across the state.
Sign templates are already being made available to cities wishing to partner in the centennial effort so they can create matching signs, ODOT said.
For the highway and interstate system statewide, ODOT has produced nearly 400 of the updated historical route markers in-house at a cost of about $50 per sign for an estimated up to $20,000 total.
Over time, these will either replace older markers or also be placed at additional locations to help point the way to local segments of the route, ODOT said.
“Traveling on Route 66 and seeing the incredible history of this highway in person is a destination trip for people worldwide, and we are so incredibly fortunate to have this gem right here in our state,” Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell said. “These signs will help drivers easily identify areas of the Mother Road and bring new awareness to this transportation treasure in Oklahoma.”
ODOT spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell said it will be up to individual states to update their Route 66 signs.
“I think what we’re doing is more in line with what other states have,” she said.
Originally designated as U.S. Highway 66, the road stretched from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, ending in Santa Monica, California.
Route 66 was one of several national highways established in 1926 and originally covered a total of nearly 2,500 miles.
Cyrus Avery, then-chairman of the State Highway Commission in Oklahoma, was known as the “Father of Route 66,” having helped create the first U.S. highway system.
Known as “America’s Main Street” or “The Mother Road,” the route ran through Oklahoma and served as the state’s first major east-west highway.
In Oklahoma, 400 miles of the Mother Road stretch from Quapaw in northeast Oklahoma to Texola in western Oklahoma, with many historic and roadside attractions remaining along the route.
The official Route 66 designation was nationally removed from the highway system in 1985.
But it is designated as a Scenic Byway and also gained designation as an All-American Road in 2008 from the Federal Highway Administration.
For more information on historic Route 66, visit the Oklahoma Route 66 Association website at oklahomaroute66.com and also the Route 66 Alliance Facebook page at facebook.com/route66alliance/ for more information on Route 66 and the upcoming centennial.