Route 66 in the News
Design to Begin Soon on Route 66 Center
TULSA, Okla. - The national Route 66 Alliance and the River Parks Authority hope to have offices in the Route 66 Interpretive Center once it is constructed at Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive.
The authority was told Thursday that design is targeted to begin this fall on the three-story building, which will house a restaurant on the top floor, and an interpretive center, office space, gift shops and smaller restaurant venues on the lower floors.
The estimated $10 million project will be funded through public and private funds, the authority was told. The public funds include $2 million from Vision 2025 and $5 million in the city's 2006 third-penny sales tax program.
City planner Dennis Whitaker said private sponsors are interested in providing funds for the project.
Whitaker said the center is part of Vision 2025's Route 66 master plan.
Completed so far in the plan are renovations to the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge — the former 11th Street Bridge — and the Avery Centennial Plaza and Avery Centennial Skywalk, at the east end of the bridge.
"This site is where so much local and far-reaching national history took place," said Michael Wallis, a member of the Route 66 Alliance. "This is where Tulsa came to life."
The former 11th Street Bridge was the first automobile bridge built across the Arkansas River.
"It's where east meets west," Wallis said.
Cyrus Avery, a highway consultant in the 1920s, proposed building U.S. 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles along a southwestern route that included Tulsa and the bridge.
The 2,450-mile "Mother Road" continues to draw interest from visitors from around the country and abroad. Of the eight states the historic highway crosses, Oklahoma has the most miles.
Whitaker told the authority that the interpretive center will be a two-phase project involving design, then construction. Officials expect the center to open in about three years.
The center will sit across the street from the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge, where the plaza has been installed.
The skywalk provides a pedestrian connection between the center site, now a parking lot, and the plaza area.
The center also will house an interpretive area to educate visitors about Route 66 through high-tech displays, Whitaker said. The exhibits will change periodically to entice visitors to return to the site, he said.
Wallis said the alliance, a nonprofit national organization that acts as a clearinghouse and archive for Route 66 information, wants to have a headquarters at the center.
River Parks Authority Chairman Darton Zink also said the authority also would like space in the center.
Whitaker said after the meeting that both agencies would be allowed to rent space.
In other business: The authority approved moving forward on a request by Jim and Nieta Pinkerton to donate $10,000 for a historic marker commemorating the original bridge at 11th Street.
A steel, pedestrian-wagon toll bridge that opened in 1904 was built by three Tulsans who were determined to gain access to the oil gushers discovered in the Red Fork and Glenn Pool oil fields west of the river.
Because of the importance of that link and the growing role of the automobile, Avery selected the site for Route 66 to cross the river, and the toll bridge was replaced with the 11th Street Bridge, local historian Beryl Ford has said.
~P.J. Lassek, Tulsa World