A recently completed economic impact study shows that $132 million per year is spent in communities along historic Route 66. This information sheds new light on the importance of heritage tourism and historic preservation along Route 66 as a contributor to local, state, and national economies. Route 66, which runs from Chicago to Santa Monica and is known as the Mother Road, is America's most celebrated automobile highway, and a symbol of 20th-century American culture and history. The study was directed by professor David Listokin of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and was carried out between 2008 and 2011 in collaboration with the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and World Monuments Fund, with the support of American Express.
The study demonstrates the tremendous influence tourists have on the economies of towns and cities along the route -
More than 85 percent of Route 66 travelers visit historic places and museums, and these tourists spend $38 million dollars a year in these communities.
Heritage preservation, through Main Street revitalization programs and museums, add another $94 million in annual investments.
The national 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.
At the local level, the 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.
In other words, preserving Route 66 is a good investment with significant community and economic benefits. 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.
(Editor's note: Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, The State University of Jew Jersey, National Park Service, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, World Monuments Fund and American Express all contributed to this guest editorial).