College Street, Springfield's "Route 66" corridor, gets a facelift

Published: Aug. 6, 2018 at 5:54 AM CDT
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The City of Springfield can expect 70,000 people to roll into town on their hot-rods during the 2018 Route 66 Festival. With the festival constantly growing in size, city officials and neighborhoods are working on improvements along the historic stretch of road.

One of the stretches that will be revamped over the years is the College Street Corridor between Grant Avenue and Kansas Expressway. Efforts started in the area in 2012. Cora Scott, the Public Information Officer with the City of Springfield, said the neighbors surrounding this area take pride in the mother road. "A huge part of their identity in West Central is the fact that College Street runs through their neighborhood," said Scott.

Scott also explained people will see improvements in the area slowly over time. "New light poles, new street improvements, sidewalks, the roadside park was put in," said Scott of work done over recent years. The Roadside park is meant to be a rendition of the old-school roadside parks people would stop in as they traveled down Route 66. However, Scott says what people see now is just the "tip of the iceberg." Not only are there plans to expand the Roadside Park, there are also plans for entrances for the corridor at Grant Avenue and Kansas Expressway, a clock tower, and a visitors kiosk.

The reason the City has to move slowly on the revitalization effort is funding. "A lot of this is we don't have identified funding sources, but we're continuing to talk with folks," explained Scott. Scott said while they have gotten private donations for some of the projects, it's up to everyone in Springfield to show their pride for Route 66 all year long. "These are just big dreams at this time, but we've already done a lot," she said. "We've grown the festival from 5,000 to almost 70,000."

Another reason to keep up with the effort to revitalize Route 66 is the economic impact it could potentially have on Springfield. According to a study done by Rutgers in 2011, the estimated cumulative Main Street Route 66 Expenditures total $923 million. Scott explained that number, saying it would be the total amount people could potentially spend along the entire stretch of road, from Chicago to LA. The study explains that amount of money would also be over a two-decade period. Part of the study also states development along the original Route 66 could add more than 10,000 jobs.

Scott reassured Springfield is a hit ticket for tourists along Route 66. "We have tour buses that come through Springfield, that are people wanting to travel the mother road from Chicago to LA, and this happens on a daily occurrence," said Scott. "They're wanting to see what's left of Route 66." Scott laughed, stating for a while it was only a couple of businesses, including Bud's Tire Shop and the Steak 'n Shake. She said Bud and his family have been great ambassadors for Springfield's part of Route 66, but urged businesses to follow his example and take some ownership. She said little by little the city is seeing that pride grow in storefronts and hopes it will continue. "You're starting to see the 66 branding in businesses," said Scott.

For renderings of future plans for the College Street Corridor of Route 66, click the City of Springfield link in this article. The Route 66 Economic Impact Study from Rutgers University is also attached.