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Route 66 kicks in millions in Oklahoma and elsewhere along its 2,400 miles

In Oklahoma, historic preservation and heritage tourism along Route 66 inject economic lifeblood to old main drags, historic sites and businesses, according to a study by Rutgers University conducted for the National Park Service.
by Richard Mize Published: April 11, 2012

The Mother Road still shoulders a wide load of small-town commerce.

Route 66, although decommissioned, stripped of its national highway markers and booted off road maps for 27 years now, carries the curious and hauls loads of tourism cash.

Route 66 kicks up $132 million per year for communities and now otherwise out-of-the-way places from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., according to an economic impact study by Rutgers University for the National Park Service.

Historic preservation and heritage tourism along Route 66 inject economic lifeblood to old main drags, historic sites and new businesses, the study found.

Researchers used census data, a first-ever comprehensive survey of Route 66 travelers, a museum survey and case studies all along the 2,400-mile route.

State tourism

In Oklahoma, researchers looked specifically at the Round Barn and POPS in Arcadia; the Route 66 Museum in Clinton; Coleman Theatre in Miami; the Rock Cafe in Stroud; and Vickery Station and a neon Meadow Gold dairy sign in Tulsa.

Highlights of the study include:

•  More than 85 percent of Route 66 travelers visit historic places and museums and spend $38 million a year.

•  Main Street revitalization programs and other historic preservation add $94 million in annual investment.

•  Locally: “Restored Route 66-themed motel, restaurant and gift shop anchor the downtown in many small communities and bring new life and revenue to towns once bypassed by the Interstate Highway System.”

•  Nationally: “Impact is an annual gain of 2,400 jobs, $90 million in income, $262 million in overall output, $127 million in gross domestic product and $37 million in tax revenues.”

The bottom line: Preserving Route 66, researchers said, is a good investment.

“This study shows that preserving historic places is important to travelers on Route 66, and brings enormous pride as well as social and economic benefits to those living along the route,” said Kaisa Barthuli, manager of the National Park Service's Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.

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by Richard Mize
Real Estate Editor
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked...
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At a glance

View the study

The study is available online at


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