Work Speeds Ahead on Replacing Century-Old Bridges With Tunnel

Plans Under Way for Route 66 Enhancements in Okla.

Tue May 15, 2007 - West Edition
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Preservation and enhancement plans are under way in communities across the state along the historic State Highway 66 as part of the state’s Scenic Byways program.

Federal funds from the National Scenic Byways office are available through the state office to improve neighborhoods, business districts and downtown areas along Route 66, said Pam Lewis, director of the state’s Scenic Byways program in Norman.

Among the ideas for improvements include a statue of Will Rogers in a roadside park in Bethany and a drive-in information kiosk resembling a 1930s gas station in El Reno.

“The whole concept of Byways is to link these communities for economic growth,” Lewis said. “We’re protecting roads and treasured places as one more way to get travelers to stop. We work with each community to document their scenic qualities for historic preservation.”

As part of the SH 66 corridor plan, a group of University of Oklahoma landscape architecture students are spending their spring semester coming up with more ways to entice people in Bethany to park along the roadway and stretch their legs.

“We’re definitely aware of Route 66 and its historic significance as a tourist draw,” said OU student Adrian Cook, 29, of Lubbock, Texas.

Cook and other students have drafted plans for a span of the highway in Bethany.

The students want to make it easier for pedestrians to walk around downtown Bethany and take advantage of the city’s antique stores and downtown shops, but they say the area needs more restaurants, entertainment venues and living spaces.

“There is nothing in the area to give people a reason to stay after they shop,” said Craig Wilson, 24, an OU graduate student from Columbia, Mo.

The students’ SH 66 corridor plans will be presented to the Bethany City Council in May.

Tom Hoskison, a Bethany economic development consultant, has asked the students to help with another idea along Route 66.

Hoskison said the city would like the students to help design a Will Rogers memorial just south of the old Lake Overholser bridge.

To the west of Bethany, city leaders in El Reno are looking to Scenic Byways to help fund the construction of informational kiosks along the Route 66 corridor that look like gasoline stations from the 1930s.