Following the signs on Route 66; dreaming of signs on the Michigan Road

Cuba, MO

Following Route 66 can be tricky. Various Interstates were built along and across its path, interrupting it. And the road itself was moved and improved many times during its life.

That’s why I kept Jerry McClanahan’s EZ 66 Guide for Travelers in my lap as we drove the Mother Road. It gave turn-by-turn directions and pointed out all of the old alignments.

Signs like this one made following the Mother Road a lot easier, too. They reassured me that I was still on the road and told me when to turn. I was especially impressed with the signage across Illinois – they never missed. But as we headed west, the signs became less frequent and the EZ 66 Guide became more important.

Thanks to the signs and the EZ 66 Guide, we got lost only once, and just briefly. That’s a pretty good record for a 900-mile trip along a highway that doesn’t officially exist anymore.

The biggest 2013 goal of the Historic Michigan Road Association, which I lead, is to place signs all along the Michigan Road Historic Byway in Indiana. It’s the linchpin of our overall strategy to bring heritage tourism to the communities along the road. The tourists can’t come if they can’t follow the road!

My belief in the importance of signs was cemented as we followed the signs on Route 66.

Our signage committee chair, Bonnie Maxwell, is doing a remarkable job of making signs a reality. She found a graphic designer willing to design our sign pro bono. She found a company that would manufacture the signs to Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) standards at a good price. She negotiated sign placement with INDOT for the portions of the road it controls, and worked with our reps in each county to figure out sign placement where the Michigan Road is under local control.

Signs are being purchased now to be placed in all but two counties: Marion (Indianapolis) and neighboring Shelby. I’m responsible for Marion County and oh my stars, am I ever behind in my signage efforts. As I write this, my local contacts have helped me get in touch with people in the Department of Public Works about our project. I’m stopped dead in my tracks by the amount of paperwork the DPW wants and daunted by some pretty stiff fees they want for encroaching on the city’s right-of-way. No other Michigan Road community has asked for so much. But Indianapolis is by far the biggest city on the road. Wish me luck as I try to crack this nut.

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2 responses to “Following the signs on Route 66; dreaming of signs on the Michigan Road”

  1. pesoto74 Avatar

    Sounds like quite a challenge. I have noticed in Illinois that there is getting to be a lot of historic road signage. There must be some kind of program here to support the effort.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Illinois probably has a byway program much like Indiana’s. IDOT probably administers it. So the Illinois Route 66 Association likely worked with IDOT and local governments to place signs along the route. I’m sure it works the same for all the other byway signage you see.

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