U.S. Route 66 in Oklahoma
|Interstate 40 Business; State Highway 66
Will Rogers Highway
|Maintained by ODOT (I-40 Bus., SH-66); county and local gov'ts|
|Length:||374.6 mi (602.9 km)
(as close as possible to the latest surface alignments, except at Tulsa and Oklahoma City)
The length of SH-66 is 192.8 mi (310.3 km)
|Existed:||December 7, 1926 – April 1, 1985|
|West end:||US 66 at Texas state line|
| US-81 in El Reno (west end of SH-66)
US-60 near White Oak (east end of SH-66)
|East end:||US-66 at Kansas state line|
The historic U.S. Route 66 ran from west to northeast across the U.S. state of Oklahoma, along the path now taken by Interstate 40 and State Highway 66. It passed through Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and many smaller communities. West of the Oklahoma City area, it has been largely replaced by I-40; the few independent portions that are still state-maintained are now Interstate 40 Business. However, from Oklahoma City northeast to Kansas, the bypassing Interstate 44 is mostly a toll road, and SH-66 remains as a free alternate.
The history of Route 66 in Oklahoma can be traced back to two auto trails—the St. Louis, Missouri–Las Vegas, New Mexico, main route of the Ozark Trails network, and the Fort Smith, Arkansas–Amarillo, Texas, Postal Highway. In the state highway system, approved in mid-1924, the portions of these in Oklahoma, which crossed at Oklahoma City, became State Highway 7 and State Highway 3 respectively. U.S. Route 66 was designated in late 1926, and followed these state highways with one exception: a new State Highway 39 was created to carry Route 66, leaving SH-7 at Commerce and heading east and north to the state line in the direction of Baxter Springs, Kansas. (The short stub of SH-7 north of Commerce remained until it became part of US-69 in the mid-1930s.)
Over the years, many portions of Route 66 west of Oklahoma City were replaced with Interstate 40. On the other hand, the Turner Turnpike and Will Rogers Turnpike were built parallel to Route 66 east of Oklahoma City, and Route 66 remained on the old road as a free alternate to the turnpikes. Route 66 was entirely eliminated by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials on April 1, 1985. In Oklahoma, the portions west of Oklahoma City that had not been rerouted onto I-40 became business loops of I-40 through Sayre, Elk City, Clinton, and El Reno. The still-independent route, starting at US-81 in southeastern El Reno, became State Highway 66, using surface streets except through Oklahoma City and Tulsa, where Route 66 had been rerouted onto the freeways. SH-66 ends at US-60 west of Vinita, where Route 66 overlapped US-60 and US-69 to east of Commerce. The remaining independent portion to the Kansas state line became part of a new US-69 Alternate.
Texas border to Elk City
By 1916, a series of unpaved state roads was laid out from Texola, just east of the Texas state line, east via Erick to Delhi, north to Sayre, and east and north via Doxey to Elk City. It became part of Route 66 in 1926; this initial alignment ran along the state line from a bit south of the old railroad grade south to E1240 Road, and then ran east through Texola on Fifth Street. After a mile south on N1680 Road, it turned east on E1250 Road to Erick, then south again on N1750 Road, east on E1260 Road, south on N1810 Road, and east on E1270 Road to Delhi. Traffic turned north at N1870 Road (now US-283), jogging west on E1250 Road at the mismatch in the section lines, and entered Sayre on N1870 Road. The bridge over the North Fork of the Red River in Sayre was built of timber in 1924 and upgraded and widened with steel in 1933. It was bypassed in 1958, and has been demolished; its remains are on private property. The original Route 66 passed through Sayre on Main Street (now SH-152) and Fourth Street, leaving to the east on Benton Boulevard (E1180 Road). It then turned north on N1900 Road, east on E1170 Road (there was a cutoff on the southeast side of the railroad at this turn), north on N1960 Road, east on E1160 Road, and north on N2000 Road into Elk City on Randall Avenue. Short sections of this — a bridge on E1170 Road east on N1950 Road (SH-34) and the crossing of Elk City Lake on N2000 Road — no longer exist.
A new alignment from the state line to Elk City was built in the late 1920s. It only coincided with the earlier route through Texola and through Sayre; the rest was entirely separate. Except in Sayre, where the city had paved the road with Portland cement (PC) in 1926, the state began paving the road in 1928 and 1929 with asphalt over a concrete base from Elk City to several miles east of Hext. It switched to PC in 1929, paving the remainder from east of Hext to the state line from 1929 to 1931. This alignment followed E1240 Road from the state line to Texola, and then the present main road through Erick and Hext to south of Sayre. The old cement lies in the center of the four-lane road through Texola, and then mainly follows the westbound lanes to Erick, through which it again lies in the center. A short abandoned piece of PC, including ruins from a former bridge over a creek, is located to the south of the road, between N1700 and N1710 Roads. Beyond Erick, the PC was again built in the present location of the westbound lanes, but has since been paved over until the I-40 interchange (exit 11). Just past exit 11, the road becomes two lanes, and the original road — mostly built as PC, but later resurfaced in asphalt, and once the westbound lanes of a divided highway - is now abandoned to the north of the open roadway; a 1928 concrete federal aid primary marker lies 0.8 miles (1.3 km) west of Hext. Beyond Hext, where I-40 comes in from the south, the two-lane road crosses to the original roadway; the later eastbound lanes are now the westbound lanes of I-40. The 1929 alignment curved to the north into N1870 Road west of exit 20, following Main Street and Fourth Street as the original route did. However, it continued beyond Benton Boulevard to Sayre Avenue, turning off onto the present four-lane I-40 Bus. towards I-40 exit 25. Just prior to the exit, Route 66 curved northeast along the northside frontage road. It crossed to the south side after exit 26, crossing Timber Creek on a 1928 through truss bridge, and crossed again just east of the N1910 Road overpass. This part of the north frontage road, from east of N1910 Road to exit 32, retains the original 1928-1929 paving, as well as a 1926 box drain. Between exit 32 and Elk City, the original road (resurfaced) is now the westbound lanes of I-40 Bus., where another 1926 box drain still stands.
A second set of lanes was added, mostly on the south side of the two-lane road, from 1955 to 1961, except through Texola, Erick, and Sayre, where the existing road was widened to four lanes. The old road was bypassed in several places: west of Texola, where the new road went diagonally northwest to the state line; between N1700 and N1710 Roads, where a straighter alignment was built to the north; entering Sayre from the south, where it continued on what is now the northside frontage road to Fourth Street (effective July 14, 1958); and at Timber Creek, where the two-lane road used the southside frontage road, and both directions of the four-lane road used the present I-40. Between the Sayre and Elk City business loops, except over Timber Creek, the new eastbound lanes are now the eastbound lanes of I-40; further west, between Sayre and Hext, they are the present westbound lanes.
I-40 was completed in its present state in 1966 between Sayre and Elk City; the bypasses of both cities opened in October 1970, with the Sayre bypass project extending west to the point east of Hext where I-40 curves away from the old road. (The relocation here was made on June 1, 1970.) The rest of I-40 west to Texas opened on September 2, 1975. Except for the bypasses around Sayre and Elk City, Route 66 was moved to the new I-40; most of it was given to Beckham County, but the old route through Erick, which had overlapped State Highway 30, became State Highway 30 Business. When Route 66 was decommissioned on April 1, 1985, the Sayre and Elk City business loops were created. I-40 Business through Erick, between exits 5 and 11, replaced SH-30 Bus. in 1987, based on traffic data.
Through Oklahoma City
Route 66 was signed in Oklahoma City by 1929. Its initial routing entered from the west on 39th Street and turned south on Classen Boulevard and east on 23rd Street. State Highway 7 entered from the south on Robinson Avenue, which also carried State Highway 4, State Highway 9, and U.S. Highway 77. At the intersection of 23rd Street and Lincoln Boulevard, just north of the State Capitol, State Highways 3 and 9 continued east, along with U.S. Highway 266, while the other routes, including Route 66, turned north. After leaving the city limits, continuing on Lincoln Boulevard (including the present Beverly Drive), it jogged east on Grand Boulevard (now Interstate 44) to reach Kelley Avenue. By 1931, traffic was routed via Western Avenue rather than Classen Boulevard, and a new U.S. Route 66 Alternate bypassed downtown, turning north rather than south on Western Avenue to Britton and east on Britton Road to Kelley Avenue. By 1935 Route 66 used May Avenue rather than Western Avenue; the alternate route continued to use Western Avenue, moving to Classen Boulevard south of 53rd Street on March 18, 1936. The alternate route was eventually moved to May Avenue on May 6, 1947.
On March 2, 1953, about the time the Northwest Expressway, Northeast Expressway, and Turner Turnpike were completed, US 66 was realigned to make use of this bypass. It turned north from 39th Street at May Avenue to reach the expressways, and followed them to Kelley, where it continued to turn north towards Edmond. The continuation of the Northeast Expressway to the Oklahoma City Terminus of the turnpike was labeled State Highway 66A; this route had extended west to May Avenue before March 2. (State Highway 3 used the Northwest Expressway west of May Avenue.) The old Route 66 through downtown, via May Avenue, 23rd Street, and Lincoln Boulevard, became U.S. Route 66 Business, and the alternate route was eliminated. A short realignment was made on August 2, 1954, using the new West Expressway from 39th Street and May Avenue to the Northwest Expressway west of Classen Boulevard.
State Highway 66A became part of Route 66 by 1956, when the new road (now Interstate 35) was built from the Turner Turnpike north to Route 66 east of Edmond. The old route via Edmond became State Highway 66 (and State Highway 77, since it had replaced U.S. Highway 77). The business route was deleted on March 5, 1979, and at about the same time the new route of the West Expressway, bypassing Classen Circle, was completed.
By 1929, Route 66 had been marked through Tulsa, entering from the southwest on Southwest Boulevard (then Quanah Avenue) to the old 11th Street Bridge over the Arkansas River, a concrete arch bridge from 1916 that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It left the bridge on Maybelle Avenue, and turned east on 11th Street, north on Cheyenne Avenue, east on 7th Street, north on Detroit Avenue, east on 2nd Street, north on Lewis Avenue, and east on Admiral Place to the city limits. Outside the city, the original route turned south on Mingo Road and east on 11th Street, turning north on 193rd Avenue to reach Catoosa. A relocation, approved on July 7, 1932, simplified the routing through Tulsa, taking it east on 11th Street all the way from the bridge to 193rd Avenue. (U.S. Highway 75 and State Highway 11 remained on Admiral Place, the former using the old Route 66 alignment through downtown.)
U.S. Route 66 Bypass was established on June 4, 1951, along the proposed Skelly Drive, which was not finished until the late 1950s, when it became part of Interstate 44. Route 66 itself was moved to Skelly Drive on November 3, 1959, and the old route on Southwest Boulevard and 11th Street, west of the Skelly Drive interchange east of downtown, became U.S. Route 66 Business. (The only change in this route was made in the early 1970s, during construction of Interstate 444, when it was moved to 12th Street west of Denver Avenue.) The business route was eliminated on January 15, 1973, removing all state highways from surface streets in downtown Tulsa, except for a temporary routing of U.S. Highway 64 and State Highway 51 on 15th Street until the Broken Arrow Expressway was completed.
Tulsa to Kansas border
As with the rest of Route 66 in Oklahoma, the majority of this segment follows Oklahoma state highway 66, with a number of older alignments that take Route 66 through many of the communities along the way. From the northeast side of Tulsa, at the intersection of 193rd Ave and Interstate 44/state highway 66, two or three routes are available, depending on which sources one considers to be official:
- The simplest route follows 193rd St. north onto the I-44 east entrance ramp. At the "top" of the ramp, the route diverts across the freeway and down a left exit onto state highway 66 almost immediately. The route then proceeds along state highway 66 through Catoosa and Chelsea.
- A second route proceeds north on 193rd Ave, crossing under I-44, and turns northeast onto Cherokee St. This route turns east onto Rice St, crosses state highway 66, and then turns northeast onto "Old US Highway 66". This road turns north as it joins with 225th St. This road splits into a "Y" just before it intersects with state highway 66. Maps indicate that both sides of the "Y" intersect with state highway 66, and that the right side of this "Y" leads the traveler to cross state highway 66 again, to find an abandoned segment of Route 66 on the other side.
- A third route proceeds north on 193rd Ave, past I-44, and turns northeast onto Cherokee St. One then turns hard right onto Antry Dr., then left onto state highway 66. The route turns east onto Rice St, then northeast onto "Old US Highway 66", north on 225th St, and then northeast back onto state highway 66.
Route 66 then follows state highway 66 northeast through Verdigris and into Claremore. One may either continue on state highway 66 all the way through town, or divert one block west and take the older alignment down J.M Davis Blvd. The route re-joins state highway 66 via Stuart Roosa Dr., at the north end of town.
Route 66 then proceeds north and east via state highway 66. Other communities along this stretch of road include Sequoyah, Foyil, and Busyhead. In Chelsea, state highway 28 briefly merges with state highway 66, then diverges north after about 5 blocks, while state highway 66 continues toward White Oak. After White Oak, US 60/US 69 join the route. Just beyond this intersection, state highway 2 joins the route as the road continues to Vinita. In the downtown area of Vinita, state highway 2 diverges to the north while US 60/US 69/Route 66 turn to the right. The highway crosses I-44 just east of the city and intersects with state highways 82 and 85. At the latter junction, the highway takes a turn to the north and continues through Afton.
Just east of Afton, there are two possible alignments:
- One may turn off to the right onto E 220 Road. This is actually a stretch of the original 9-foot-wide (2.7 m) "sidewalk" highway. The driver would follow the road straight at first, then follow the original roadbed as it curves to the right, avoiding the 90-degree intersection ahead. This joins with S 520 road and intersects with and crosses US 69. One should proceed straight on S 520 Road, crossing US 69 and eventually crossing over I-44. Less than one mile (1.6 km) later, the roadbed curves to the east onto 210th road, again avoiding the 90-degree intersection. Less than one mile (1.6 km) after this, the sidewalk road becomes regular paved roadway, which then intersects with US 69. At this point, Route 66 turns north to follow the main highway.
- Alternatively, one may remain on US 69, bypassing the sidewalk road entirely and continuing northeast. After about 2 miles (3.2 km), US 59 joins the route (about half way between the two ends of the sidewalk route). At the US 60/US 69/I-44 interchange, US 69 continues north while US 60 diverts east.
Shortly after Narcissa, another section of the old Route 66 alignment is available, again as a stretch of sidewalk highway:
- At 140th road, the original Route 66 alignment turns to the right, onto another stretch of sidewalk highway. The roadbed turns north onto 540th road after one mile (1.6 km), then east onto 130th road after another mile. After about 1.5 miles (2.4 km), the route turns north onto "E" St. SW. The route continues north through a rural-looking residential area and joins with state highway 125 after one mile (1.6 km). After another 1.4 miles (2.3 km), the road bends to the right and crosses the Neosho River, then bends to the left and joins with Main Street in Miami, Oklahoma. The Route continues north through town. Like the stretch of road near Afton, the sidewalk roadbed bends and curves around the corners, avoiding the actual 90-degree intersections entirely.
- Alternatively, one may remain on US 59/US 69, bypassing the sidewalk road. State highway 10 joins the route about 3.3 miles (5.3 km) beyond Narcissa, and US 59 diverts to the west at this intersection. US 69/Route 66 continues northeast into Miami. At the intersection with Main Street, state highway 10 proceeds east, while US 69/Route 66 diverges to the north.
Route 66/US 69 continues north through Miami. As the highway exits to the north, an alternate alignment becomes available:
- At the intersection with Newman Road, US 69 bends northeast. Just past Newman Road is an exit that takes one back onto Main Street; a sign is currently in place directing travelers to take this exit to remain on Route 66. From here, Route 66 proceeds north through the "back" side of Commerce, Oklahoma. Route 66 turns east at Commerce St. and proceeds through the downtown area of Commerce. Route 66 turns north at Mickey Mantle Blvd to rejoin with US 69.
- Alternatively, one may remain on US 69, bypassing the downtown area of Commerce.
US 69/Route 66 bends to the east as it exits the north side of Commerce. About 1.8 miles (2.9 km) after this bend, US 69 diverts to the north. Alternate US 69 begins at this point, and Alternate 69/Route 66 continues east, bending north as the highway enters the south end of Quapaw, Oklahoma. The Route continues through Quapaw and proceeds northeast beyond the Oklahoma/Kansas state line to Riverton, Kansas, where 66 splits from alternate 69 and heads eastward as Kansas state highway 66.
||0||0||US 66 west – Texas|
|Sayre||23||37||US-283 / SH-152|
|Elk City||40||64||SH-6 / SH-34|
||Geary||110||177||US-270 / US-281 / SH-8|
||Oklahoma City||162||261||I-35 / I-40 / I-44|
|Stroud||224||360||US-377 / SH-99|
||Bristow||238||383||SH-16 / SH-48|
||Tulsa||267||430||US-75 north / I-44|
||Vinita||329||529||SH-2 / I-44|
||Afton||346||557||US-59 / US-60|
|Miami||359||578||SH-10 / SH-125|
|Commerce||363||584||US-69 north – Picher|
|373||600||US-66 east – Kansas|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
U.S. Route 66 in Oklahoma is home to many National Register of Historic Places sites connected in some way with the historic highway.
Fort Reno served as a US military post from 1874 (long before Oklahoma attained statehood) through World War II. The Chandler Armory, built under the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, served as home of the 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma National Guard during World War II and continued in service until replaced by a modern building in 1971. It was restored in 2007 as Chandler's Route 66 information site and convention hall.
Miami's Coleman Theatre, established 1929. has long entertained visitors with everything from live music to cinema. The restored native folk art collection of Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park in Foyil dates from 1937.
Arcadia's Round Barn has served as a de facto community hall since 1898. The distinctive large dome of the Beckham County Courthouse has stood over downtown Sayre since 1911.  McLain Rogers Park, constructed as a Clinton city park as part of a Great Depression Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civil Works Administration, and the Works Progress Administration joint project, includes playgrounds, tennis and volleyball courts, miniature golf, picnic areas, a baseball field and a bandstand.
Various Oklahoma road segments are of historical importance, including the 11th Street Arkansas River Bridge in Tulsa, the Lake Overholser Bridge in Oklahoma City and the Bridge #18 at Rock Creek (now closed) in Sapulpa.
Restaurants, stores and motels
The 1939 sandstone Rock Café contains a large collection of both local memorabilia and souvenirs from Pixar's research of U.S. Route 66 in the area for the animated film Cars. Proprietor Dawn Welch is the model on which Sally Carrera, the Radiator Springs hotelier who fights to rebuild and restore the town, is based.
A Milk Bottle Grocery occupies a tiny corner of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma near the Gold Dome, its small building overshadowed by a huge milk bottle constructed as an advertisement on the store's roof.
The Chelsea Motel in Chelsea and West Winds Motel in Erick, once lured many weary travellers from US 66 but lost their clientele when the road was bypassed. Both are still extant but have been converted to other uses; they are no longer open to the public.
Lucille Hamons operated the Provine Service Station near Hydro, Oklahoma from 1941 until her death in 2000, earning the title "Mother of the Mother Road" for her widely reputed generosity to travellers during hard economic times. After the freeway bypassed the site, the Interstate highway passed directly in front of old Route 66 and the Hamons' Court but was separated by a fence and provided no easy access to the site as the only off-ramps were in Hydro and Weatherford.
Other historic stations which remain on US 66 in Oklahoma include Avant's Cities Service Station and Jackson Conoco Service Station in El Reno, Oklahoma, a Marathon Station in Miami, the Seaba Station in Warwick, the Threatt Filling Station in Luther, the Vickery Phillips 66 Station in Tulsa and the Y Service Station and Café in Clinton.
The Afton Station Packard Museum is a former filling station restored as a privately owned museum, offering souvenirs and Route 66 information.
The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma is operated by the Elk City Chamber of Commerce. It includes history and displays about Route 66 from Illinois to California. The Route 66 museum is part of the larger Old Town Museum Complex which showcases pioneer life in western Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Oklahoma's Memorial Highways & Bridges: Historic Route 66, including maps from Jim Ross, Oklahoma Route 66, 2001
- Google Maps driving directions:
- Map of the Ozark Trails
- State of Oklahoma, Preliminary Designation of the State Highway System, approved August 28, 1924
- Rand McNally Auto Road Atlas, 1926, accessed via the Broer Map Library
- Oklahoma State Highway System 1927, Progress Map as of November 1, 1927
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Official State Highway Map of Oklahoma, February 1934
- Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Chronological History of US Highway 69 Alternate
- Oklahoma Department of Highways, The State of Oklahoma, 1916: this map shows the original main road, mostly along section lines, though it is occasionally off by a mile from what other sources indicate.
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Official Map of the State Highways of Oklahoma (back side), January 1, 1929
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Official Highway Map (back side), July 1, 1931
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Official State Highway Map of Oklahoma (back side), 1935
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Oklahoma (back side), 1953
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Oklahoma (front side), 1956
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Oklahoma 1979 Map (front side)
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Official State Highway Map (back side), August 1933
- Federal Highway Administration, National Bridge Inventory database, 2006
- Oklahoma State Highway Commission, Oklahoma 1974 Map (back side)
- "US 66 in Oklahoma". Google Maps.
- "Fort Reno". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Chandler Armory". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Coleman Theatre-Route 66: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary". Nps.gov. 1929-04-18. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Arcadia Round Barn". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Beckham County Courthouse". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "McLain Rogers Park". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Oklahoma Road Segments". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "11th Street Arkansas River Bridge". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Lake Overholser Bridge". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Bridge #18 at Rock Creek". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Rock Cafe". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Milk Bottle Grocery". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Pops landmark". Retrieved 6 June 2012.
- "Chelsea Motel". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "West Winds Motel". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Provine Service Station-Route 66: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary". Nps.gov. 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Avant's and Jackson Service Stations". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Miami Marathon Oil Company Service Station". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Seaba Station". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Threatt Filling Station". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Vickery Phillips 66 Station". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Y Service Station and Café". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to U.S. Route 66 in Oklahoma.|
- Route 66 on TravelOK.com by the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department
- Route 66 on Two Wheel Oklahoma
- National Route 66 Museum
|U.S. Route 66|