New life coming to old Route 66

ROUTE66 ROADRUNNER

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Albuquerque is home to the longest, urban intact stretch of the original Route 66 highway, and the city and its partners are ready to look at the future of the road while preserving its treasured past. In November, the city passed the Route 66 Action Plan.

Russell Brito, manager in the Urban Design and Development Division with the City Planning Department said, “There is a lot of importance in terms of tourism for bringing in outside money into the city.”

He said some businesses are taking advantage of the Central Avenue Neon Design Overlay Zone.

“It’s a set of incentives for businesses and property owners to put up neon to help bring back that nostalgic feel,” he said.

Eric Garcia, the creative director and owner of EFG Creative said, “I think we need a brand that best represents Albuquerque.”

“We’re trying to give a new experience for the Route 66. It’s not just old cars and old Coca-Cola signs. What we’re trying to create is the experience that can be talked about 50 years from now,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s firm won a proposal to build five Route 66 signs featuring a roadrunner. He said they should be installed at the end of March. Drivers will also see EFG Creative’s work welcoming people to the Village of Los Lunas. That gateway is part of the historic previous Route 66 alignment.

Garcia’s firm also has a 22-foot UFO-inspired Route 66 sign under design and other ideas he hopes Albuquerque can adopt, such as a Route 66 bus shelter and Route 66 sign that’s a grill, with the “66” letters formed by red and green chile

“I’ve mentioned to the mayor and different city officials that nobody really owns Route 66. Nobody’s taken ownership of it,” Garcia said.

The city realizes Route 66 offers huge opportunities.

“In fact, there was a recent study by Rutgers University that looked at the economic impact that Route 66 has and they found that there’s over $130 million generated annually along the stretch of Route 66 that is directly related to tourism and people wanting to come see the mother road,” Brito said.

The Route 66 Action Plan addresses concepts such as improving the atmosphere, infrastructure and economic opportunities within a 15-mile stretch along Central Avenue.

After it passed unanimously, Mayor R.J. Berry said, “We want visitors to come to our city and tout the fact that they drove the historic road, enjoyed our culture, restaurants, shops and other attractions.”

He added, “With some updates, this corridor could re-energize our city as a major Route 66 destination.”

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