About Route 66 in the "Gateway City"
Introduction: US 66 in St. Louis
Many ask us "Where is Route 66 in St. Louis?", and the answer is basicallyHistoric Route 66: all over the place. If you are interested in learning which were the routes taken by Route 66 to pass through Saint Louis over the years, you've come to the right website!
Did Route 66 go through St Louis?
Yes. Route 66 went through Saint Louis following at least five (5) different routes or alignments between 1926 and 1975.
The alignment of Route 66 in Saint Louis Missouri has changed a lot since it was created back in 1926. There was not one, but many routes follwed by US 66 in the Gateway City. It had not only the plain "U.S. 66" alignment but also multiple "Bypass 66" and "City 66" variants, and even two of them at the same time.
Tucker Blvd. and Market St. this is the former City US 66 in downtown St. Louis, Missouri
Below we will describe them and, display them in the Google Map below.
We base our descriptions on the solid evidence provided by the Missouri Department of Transport historic maps (See their collection here), which we will indicate as "MO DOT" and the reliable United States Geological Survey Historic maps (USGS) which you can also find online: Search the USGS historical maps collection.
Route 66 Saint Louis Map
Read the text below for the color coding of each historic alignment
Original 1926 to 1932 Alignment of Route 66
Old Route 66 St. Louis
When Route 66 was created, it followed Missouri Highway 14 from Villa Ridge to Springfield, and at first it was numbered as Route 60, which was the initial number given to the mother road, and later changed to 66 (read more about this: Route 66 was born as US 60).
Location of St. Louis on Route 66 in Missouri
The highway left St. Louis along Manchester Road -at one time known as Market Street Road because farmers used it to bring their produce into the city- was the first state highway, created in 1835. It linked St. Louis with the town of Manchester, on the road to state capital, Jefferson City. The road was paved in 1921 and it became the obvious choice when Route 66 was created. It went through a series of small towns: Maplewood, Brentwood, Kirkwood, Des Peres and Ballwin.
It is shown in Orange in the map above.
The MO DOT 1926 map of Route 66 (shown as Route 60) through St. Louis gives the following alignment, (from east to west) starting in Granite City, Illinois: the original US 66 headed southwest along Madison Ave. through Granite City and then along Broadway, it crossed what today is McKinley Bridge into St. Louis, Missouri. The old road link with the bridge has been modified and cut by a realignment of 4th St. and the grade crossing was replaced by an underpass to the north, this non-driveable segment of the old road is shown in Black in the map.
This bridge dates back to 1910, and the railroad used it until 1910. It carried US 66 as from 1926 and closed to traffic from 2001 to 2007. It has three spans with 18 panel Pennsylvania Petit Through Truss. You can still use it, it is open.
Then US 66 bypassed the downtown area, heading west along Salisbury St., Natural Bridge Ave., taking a right along N Grand Blvd, and a left along Delmar Blvd. (this section is interrupted by a Highschool nowadays -so the gap is shown in Black), then south along N. Sarah St., and west along Lindell Blvd, running along the north side of Forest Park. At the western tip of the park it turned right, south along S. Skinker Blvd. and then along McCausland Ave, taking a right, westwards along Manchester Rd., continuing all the way (now it is MO-100) through Manchester and Ballwin and onwards to Gray Summit where it meets the later alignment of Route 66 which ran further south (shown in Pale Blue in the Map above).
There was another alternative on the eastern side of Forest Park: After reaching Lindell, drivers could take a left and return east along Lindell Blvd. or keep straight ahead and do the same on Forest Park Ave. Both Lindell and Forest Park Ave. met N. Grand again, and here drivers would turn right along it, and take a right on Choteau Ave, which became Manchester Rd. and head westwards, to the south of Forest Park, meeting the other alignment at McCausland Ave.
The 1932 realignment west of St. Louis
Route 66 was realigned shortly after, ceding the previous roadbed to US 50. The new course of US 66 began in Gray Summit, going through Pacific, Allentown
and Eureka and heading into St. Louis south of its former alignment. This old roadebed is now mostly under I-44, and is shown as follows, in the map above:
Pale Blue in the Map above, from Gray Summit into Allentown -original road, and in Blue where you can still drive some isolated segments or Black where it is cut and you cannot drive along it any longer . In Red are the parts now lying under I-44's roadbed west of Allentown into Kirkwood. East of this point the road is shown again in Pale Blue into Saint Louis proper.
This alignment, according to the USGS 1935 map, then passed through the downtown area following the alignment shown in Gray until reaching the 1926 alignment at Salisbury St., and heading eastwards there, (Orange) across McKinley Bridge (see Steet view on the Bridge), into Granite City, IL, then taking Broadway and Madison. Here it met, on Market St. US 67 and both continued towards the north, eastbound.
Chain of Rocks Bridge, 1936
Chain of Rocks Bridge. Historic Site.
It was built in 1929 and has 5 steel spans: Subdivided Warren Through Truss with Verticals and Warren Through Truss and the approaches at each end have 3 spans. It closed in 1968 and has reopened again in 1999 for use by pedestrians and as part of a bycicle route.
The "Chain of Rocks Bridge" (toll) opened in 1936 and provided another Mississippi River Crossing, to the north of the city, it was also a faster way to go around the city via a Bypass which circled it on its northern and western fringes instead of driving through it as before. Below we describe the new alignments:
1940s Alignment, the two "City Alignments" and the "Bypass"
The USGS 1940 map shows that the "Chain of Rocks Bridge" which carried US 66 across it, and split into two branches:
First City 66 in Missouri
One which was the Missouri "City 66" headed south from the bridge along Riverview Drive (in Gray in the map above) into the downtown area, and then continued along the previous alignment (Pale Blue) westwards. It met a Second City 66 on Washington Ave., which came from Illinois (Blue), having crossed the Mississippi River on the "Municipal Bridge" (Black). We describe this alignment below:
Municipal or MacArthur Bridge
Opened in 1917 and carried a railroad, which still uses it. In 1929 US 66 used it. Car deck was closed in 1981 and dismantled in 2014. The steel bridge has 3 spans (Modified Pennsylvania Through Truss with single-span Pratt Through Truss on its western tip.
Second City 66 from Illinois
Route 66 in East St. Louis
City 66 junction with Collinsville Rd in satellite view and 1940 USGS Map
click on image for large Street View
We describe it from east to west, This branch (shown in Green in the Map above), came from Mitchell Illinois where it split from the main US 66 which headed west towards the Chain of Rocks Bridge, and is shown in Pink in the map above at what is now I-270 Exit 4 (the freeway and the railroad cut the old alignment there and this is shown in Black). The "City 66" then headed south along MO-203 (Nameoki Rd.), turning into Granite City via Edwardsville Rd. and then south with Alt US 67 along Mc Cambridge Ave. (MO-203) and Madison Rd., all the way to Collinsville Rd. The last segment of this section is now cut by I-55 Exit 4 exchange with MO-203 (shown in Black in the map), this crossing is shown in the image (which has a satellite view of its present appearance -red arrows show old roadbed, and a 1940 map of the USGS).
Here it went west along Collinsville Rd., (there was no I-64 in those days) into East Saint Louis, and at St. Clair Ave. went southwest along 10th Ave. (now a new railroad cuts the old alignment here - Black).
Viaduct and Municipal Bridge
The Road kept on straight and now ends at a dead end on Baker Ave., but in those days it continued west, across the railroad yards on a steel viaduct pictured below and then crossed the Mississippi into Missouri alongside the railway on the "Municipal Bridge" whose elevated viduct (shown below) ended at S 7th St. (these viaducts and bridge are now cut off and are shown in Black in the Map above). From here it went down Chouteau Ave. (shown in Blue) to meet the other "City 66" alignment.
Present view of the old US 66 Viaduct in East St. Louis, Google
click on image for large Street View
Present view of the old US 66 Municipal Bridge in St. Louis, Google
click on image for large Street View
And then we have the other branch from the "Chain of Rocks Bridge": "BYP 66" (Bypass 66) which is shown in Brown in the map above. It split north, after crossing the "Chain of Rocks Bridge", and then took a sharp left, heading west, following what then was Hall Ave., and further west Lindbergh Ave. Today is Dunn Rd. on the north side of I-270. At modern Exit 25 of I-270 the road curved south (now the ramp next to Pershall Rd.) heading straight south along N. Lindbergh Blvd. The old road is cut now by the extension of St. Louis Lambert Airport runways, shown in Black in the map above. The modern highway curves west and passes under the runway. BYP 66 continued straight southwards all the way to Watson Rd. on the southwest side of the city, where it met the "City 66" alignment described above and both "City" and "Bypass" 66 merged back into US 66 and headed west and crossing the Meramec River towards Eureka.
1945 - 46 Minor changes
The alignment did not change in the 1945-46 MO DOT map but the names of the road did: This map has Route 66 splitting into BY 66 (bypass) and CY 66 (City) at Mitchell with the bypass 66 crossing, previously it was US 66 that crossed the river and then split into City and Bypass in Missouri. The rest of the alignments and the Illinois CY-66 remain unchanged.
Rittenhouse and his 1946 Book: US 66 in St. Louis
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse in his "A Guide Book to Highway 66", published in 1946 gives us a first hand account: He drove through Edwardsville and Mitchell, and wrote that just past Mitchell, "Here City Route 66 forks off to the left into Saint Louis, while the main US 66 crosses railroad tracks and continues ahead to the CHAIN OF ROCKS BIRDGE and the "belt line" route skirting the city..." in his day the toll was for auto and occupants: 25¢ This was the best route if you were not planningon stopping in St. Louis. He describes its loop around the city, passing near the Airport and "rejoin[ing] City 66 at a point 26 miles from Chain of Rocks Bridge" the road was "a wide, high-speed route" lacking city traffic and with many service stations and some cabins and cafes. He tells those who chose City 66 that, after the center of the city it ran along Gravois Ave. Chippewa St. and Watson Ave. meeting the Bypass 66 13 miles from St. Louis City Hall.
His description coincides with the maps we are mentioning.
The 1950s, more changes
The 1953 MO DOT map changed the name of the "bypass" (north and west of the city - in Brown in the Map above) to "US 66", eliminating it as a bypass. The two City alignments (in MO and IL) remain unchanged (except for the extension of N. Florissant Ave., which avoided the Herbert St. segment. This is shown in Yellow).
The old "muncipal bridge" is now named "Mac Arthur Bridge". Note that at that time, US 66 does not cross either the Eads or the Veterans Memorial toll Bridge it only uses the Mac Arthur Bridge (some sources indicated those bridges as US 66 crossings, but it is disproven by the MO DOT map).
1954 and 55 US 66 Alignments
The 1954 and 55 USGS maps of the area show more profound changes in the old road.
The main "US 66" and "Bypass 66" (BYP 66) separated much further east than they had done until then. The split took place far to the north of Edwardsville and Mitchell: at the point where modern Exit 33 on I-55 is located, north of Hamel, just east of Worden.
Both alignments gradually separated, BYP-66 (shown in Salmon in the Map above) opening towards the west and US-66 ran further east, as a four-lane highway, which is now under I-55 and is shown in Violet in the map. Let's describe these two roads courses:
Main US 66 - 1954
In Violet. At current I-55 Exit 17, it merged with US-40 and both highways US-66 & 40 took a southwestern course (under I-55 today) and just south of Maryville, at Troy Crossing, (present Exit 15B of I-55) both highways turned south (along Vandalia St. - MO-159) heading for Collinsville, which they bypassed by taking a westward course on the town's northern fringe, along Beltline Rd., all of this alignment is a 4-lane highway. Then, at what is modern MO-157 both highways turned south and then took a right, turning west towards St. Louis where modern Collinsville Middle School is now located, at the junction with Collinsville Rd. and St. Louis Rd. The roads then went westwards all the way to its junction with modern MO-203, here it overlapped the previous alignment (in Green) until St. Clair Ave. where it turned right and then left (once again in Violet) as a 4-lane highway which then split into two to allow traffic to cross the Mississippi River using two bridges: Veterans Memorial Bridge to the north and Eads Bridge to the south; both were toll bridges. Present I-55 has cut off one of those access routes (Black in the map).
Veterans or MLK Bridge
Built in 1957 and restored in 1987 it now has two eastbound lanes and one westbound lane. The steel bridge is a Cantilevered Subdivided Warren Through Truss with a 2-span Warren Deck Truss approach. It is open so you can drive across it.
Once across the river, traffic headed west along Washington Ave. and met the City 66 which ended here (and maintained its original alignment south of the "Chain of Rocks Bridge". US 66 then followed its old alignment westwards (Pale Blue).
BYP 66, two of them - 1954
BYP 66 (in Salmon) on the other hand followed the 1940s alignment of Route 66: it passed through Hamel, Barnett and Graney (now it is MO-157). It went through Edwardsville (turning west along E. Vandalia St and St. Louis St. - MO-143; and then south along West St.) continuing to Mitchell to the point where modern MO-157 meets Chain of Rocks Rd. (north of I-270 Exit 9). Here the USGS 1955 Map shows us that the road forked into "Two bypass roads":
- BYP 66 #1: it went west, crossing the "Chain of Rocks Bridge" (Pink) and from here on, the old Bypass 66 (in Brown) and City 66 (Gray and Yellow), remain unchanged.
- BYP 66 #2: branched south at Mitchell following the old CY 66 alignment (Green line) to meet the main US 66 (in Violet) in East St. Louis.
1957 - 58: Freeway US 66
The 1957 and 1958 MO DOT Map gave the bypass north and west of the city (Brown) its old "BY 66" name back again. City 66 (CY 66) on the Missouri side of the Mississippi remains unchanged, and the CY 66 in Illinois is gone. Route 66 which as described above, reaches East St. Louis along Collinsville Rd., (Violet) now crosses the Mississippi River via Veterans Mem. Bridge and heads west as usual.
The highway was also improved: The western part of BY 66 (from Kirkwood to its northern tip, past the airport) and US 66 entering St. Louis from the West up to the City Limits were both multi-lane freeways and though the Illinois segment is not marked as such, the USGS maps show them as four lane highways.
The 1960s: Route 66 and the Interstate
The 1963 USGS map of St. Louis, revised in 1969 still has BYP 66 going around the city and meeting US 66 on the south side of St. Louis. The old City 66 is gone and US 66 enters St. Louis from the east (Illinois) along modern I-55 / US-40. It is unclear which of all the bridges it uses to cross the Mississippi River, before heading south out of town along its old alignment (Pale Blue), but probably it uses the I-55 bridge.
1970s: I-44 and the end of Route 66
A state petition in 1962 to name the freeway (I-44) as I-66 was denied by the AASHTO as that number had been used already.
Finally in 1972 the whole of Route 66 had been replaced by the Interstate system and in 1974 it was decided that the whole of US 66 from Chicago to Joplin would be eliminated and decertified. However this was delayed until I-55 in Illinois was completely brought up to Interstate standards. The signs were removed in 1977 but even then, the last segment of the old Route 66 in Missouri was bypassed in 1981.
Alignment of Route 66 in Missouri: Historic U.S. 66 through Sullivan
Route 66 across Missouri
U.S. Route 66 in Missouri is a State Historic Scenic Byway in Missouri and this also includes St. Louis. It is still pending Federal designation as a Byway.
Click on the following link and see our overview of Route 66 across the state of Missouri.