More signs will inform motorists that they’re driving on the famous Route 66 in Lebanon, and Route 66 banners may be hanging from light poles, too. But it’s unlikely that Elm Street’s name will be changed to “Route 66” anytime soon.
The Lebanon City Council heard an update Monday night from Public Works Director Richard Shockley on the city’s plans for promoting The Mother Road for tourism. The council also heard a report from the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society about its partnerships with the city.
Shockley said the city plans to double the number of state-approved Route 66 “Historic Byway” signs along the route in Lebanon. The city took possession of the additional signs late last week. When all are erected, two dozen of the familiar blue-and-white signs will make Route 66 easier to navigate in the city, he said.
“MoDOT says we’ll have the highest density of the signs anywhere in the state,” Shockley told the council, referring to the Missouri Department of Transportation. “I don’t think there will be any confusion you’re on Route 66.”
Shockley also presented two other options for improving Route 66’s identity in Lebanon.
He showed two examples of horizontal green signs that would hang on crossarms at major intersections along Route 66. One sign was lettered "HISTORIC RT 66" and the other was lettered “ELM ST – HISTORIC RT 66.” In smaller type at the right of both signs was “LEBANON MISSOURI” with the Route 66 shield centered in a red heart. The Route 66 Society held a contest for a Route 66 slogan last year, selecting “Lebanon, the Heart of Route 66.”
Shockley also showed a slide of a Route 66 banner that hangs from light poles in Baxter Springs, Kansas.
“I think as to having more of an impression for a tourist coming through the city, an investment in banners is where it needs to be,” Shockley said.
He said Lebanon has 190 street lights along Route 66. He estimated the cost of buying brackets for all 190 light poles at $28,000 to $29,000. Two-sided banners could be bought for less than $10,000.
“If you’re going to do it, you need to do it right,” Shockley said.
“I think that would be a better direction to go than the city trying to rename the street.”
Shockley explained that when the city took ownership of Elm Street from the state, the city insisted that the route keep the valuable “Business I-44” designation. He cautioned that a name change from Elm Street to Route 66 might jeopardize that agreement in MoDOT’s eyes.
He recommended that the council choose either the banners or the horizontal signs in order to have a consistent message.
No vote was taken, but several council members said they favored banners over the street signs. Carr said the “Lebanon, the Heart of Route 66” logo could appear on the banners. “To be able to use that would be fantastic.”
After the meeting, City Administrator Michael Schumacher said the next step would be for him and Shockley to put together some numbers on the cost of banners and seeing how those numbers fit into the budget. He noted that banners wouldn’t have to be bought for all 190 light poles in order to be effective. The council would have to approve the project before the banners were bought.
He suggested that the Route 66 Society share the project cost. He told the council that the society has “some great ideas.”
Banners were one of the goals Route 66 Society Vice President Gary Sosniecki listed in speaking during the “public comments” section of the meeting. (Click here to read the text of those remarks.)
Howard Fuller, a former member of the Route 66 board, also attempted to speak during the public comments, as he has at several council meetings, but he and Carr clashed quickly after the mayor warned him not to be repetitive. Fuller has been campaigning for the city to change Elm Street’s name to Route 66 in accordance with a 1998 state law that Fuller helped pass. Fuller’s letters to the editor of the Laclede County Record have attacked Mayor Jared Carr personally for not changing the name.
But Carr was enthusiastic about Route 66 at the end of the meeting.
“We look forward to what we can do,” he said. “We have a great master plan, and it’ll be great for Lebanon as well as the surrounding communities.”