Route 66 in the News
Bike Path Tied to Mother Road
BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. - Ten years ago this September, an intergovernmental agreement was reached to share costs and planning for a Route 66 bikeway from Chenoa to McLean. There are already short segments, some using pavement from abandoned portions of Route 66, in Chenoa, Lexington and Towanda.
In voting to approve the engineering contract, McLean County Board member Bette Rackauskas said that despite the tough economic times -- and because of them -- it is worthwhile to provide free entertainment for residents.
But this 3.75-mile segment would be part of a project that goes well beyond entertainment or recreation for local residents.
The segment from west Bloomington to Shirley would be part of a proposed 370-mile Route 66 Bikeway that would stretch through Illinois from Chicago to St. Louis. It closely follows the route of the "Mother Road" that was replaced by Interstate 55 for highway travelers but never replaced in the hearts of many.
There already is a route map developed through a joint effort of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and others. It includes turn-by-turn directions for a 122-mile ride from Dwight to Lincoln that also lists attractions, such as Pontiac's Route 66 Museum and Funks Grove Maple Sirup.
Long-distance bike trails are big tourist draws in Wisconsin, Missouri and elsewhere. Illinois lags behind these states in making use of this asset.
Combining the popularity of bike trails with the international attraction of old Route 66 gives this project a two-pronged hook.
This might not be the right time to spend a lot of money on such a project, but planning should continue so it's ready to go when money is available.
Normal's bicycle-pedestrian master plan notes the "tremendous potential for the Town to realize the extensive recreational and economic benefits of bicycling" by being part of the Route 66 Bikeway.
Even without the bikeway completed, the route is attracting users.
The League of Illinois Bicyclists is once again coordinating a trail ride along the route. Taking place Aug. 29 to Sept. 3, its purpose is to publicize and promote development of the trail.
Don't take this area's links to the Route 66 for granted. Appreciate the potential it offers for recreation and tourism.
More details about the trail ride and maps of the route are available at League of Illinois Bicyclists' Web site: www.bikelib.org/route66/index.htm