Route 66 generates a mother lode, study finds

John Steinbeck dubbed the 2,400-mile ribbon of pavement America’s “mother road.”

A new study now confirms that Route 66 -- stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica -- also generates a mother lode of revenue for the small towns and businesses along its path.

Each year, Route 66 travelers and those programs dedicated to preserving the historic landmarks along the road spend $132 million, according to a study by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, the National Park Service, the American Express Foundation and others.

The $132 million in spending spurs related industry that support 2,400 jobs, $90 million in income and $37 million in tax revenues, according to the study, which relied on more than 4,200 surveys of Route 66 travelers.


The spending is vital, the survey argues, because the poverty level along Route 66 is high, with 15% of the roadway’s residents considered impoverished.

“As documented in the case studies, in many smaller communities along Route
66, tourism related to the Mother Road is one of the most significant, if not the only, ‘economic game in town,’” the study concluded.

Among Route 66 travelers, 85% come from the U.S., with the rest coming mostly Canada and Europe, according to the survey. Travelers on the route are overwhelmingly white, middle aged and typically well-educated, according to the survey. The average trip along Route 66 lasted 11 days, with 61% traveling west.


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