UPDATE: This post originally ran in June 2018 after the House passed the Route 66 Centennial Commission Act (H.R. 66) by voice vote. The bill did not pass the Senate and therefore had to be reintroduced in the new 116th Congress. The House again passed H.R. 66 on February 6th by a wide margin, 399-22.
How long does it take to plan a party for a highway? Apparently, the House thinks eight years. This week, the House passed the Route 66 Centennial Commission Act (H.R. 66) by voice vote. Sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), H.R. 66 will create a 19-member commission to plan the 100th year anniversary of US Highway 66, better known as Route 66.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the birthday commission for the iconic highway that connects Chicago to LA will cost $3 million over the next 5 years, mostly for staff.
The commission is supposed to issue a report within 5 years with recommendations on how to pay for the centennial along with potential activities such as books, films, conferences or ceremonies. The party planning committee will also issue a report on the preservation needs of Route 66.
This won’t even be the first federal program to celebrate Route 66. In 1999, Congress created the Route 66 Corridor Preservation program which is managed by the National Park Service. The program provides $290,000 annually “to support the preservation of the most significant and representative historic Route 66 buildings, structures, road segments, and cultural landscapes in the eight states through which the route passes.” The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has awarded grants to refurbish neon signs, renovate an abandoned gas station and used car lot, and to restore the facade of a theatre. It also supported a dramatic production that “celebrates the experience of travel during the heyday of Route 66.”
Rather than use the existing Route 66 program, the House bill will create a new commission within the Department of Transportation. The bill language does not even acknowledge the existence of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, so unclear whether there will be any communication.
The bill has only passed the House and will need to be approved the Senate and signed by the President to become law. The Route 66 centennial will be a fun and historical moment, no doubt. But the Senate or the President should ask – does the federal government really need eight years to plan a party? While Domino’s Pizza is patching potholes, does the DOT need to shell out $3 million for this commission? And isn’t one federal Route 66 program enough?