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Congress Goes Another Year Without Passing Route 66 Legislation

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With Congress in recess for the holidays, the federal government has made it another year without passing legislation that would boost funding for Route 66.

Oklahoma Route 66 Association President Rhys Martin said they did win over Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe as a supporter after he had previously balked at the proposal.

"Initially, one of the concerns that was raised by Sen. Inhofe’s office was potential interference with future pipeline projects. There’s a similar bill for the Appalachian Trail that got held up due to some concerns in that region," Martin said.

Politics may have been the biggest impediment this year, with Congress focused on impeachment proceedings late in the year. Legislation to designate the Mother Road a National Historic Trail simply stalled in the House and Senate.

"The biggest impact is the fact that the annual grant process that the National Park Service has been administrating will not exist, and there are many projects in Tulsa in the past that have taken advantage of that grant program, such as the facade of the Circle Cinema or the Meadow Gold sign restoration," Martin said.

Route 66 Alliance Executive Director Ken Busby said the lack of dedicated federal funding for preservation work puts people trying to save the Mother Road in a tough spot.

"Having that federal that often provides a matching grant option really helps us leverage state and local dollars. So, it’s really, critically important if we’re going to maintain this 2,448-mile stretch of road. We just have to have some help to do it," Busby said.

Congressional Budget Office estimates put the cost of designating Route 66 a National Historic Trail at $2 million a year through 2023.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.