Historic Route 66 Springfield to Joplin
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Background on Historic Route 66
1924 Auto Trails roadmap SW MO
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See large sized map
The thumbnail map (click on it to enlarge) is an "Auto Trail" map printed in 1924. It shows the different highways in the southwestern part of Missouri. Springfield is on the right side, and Joplin on the left side of the map.
These trails were mostly unpaved dirt-surfaced roads that were in poor conditions. The numbers on the map indicate the highway name: #50 was the Ozark Trail and it went through Mt. Vernon and Sarcoxie, roughly where I-44 is now aligned. Trail #2 from Carthage to Joplin was the "Jefferson Highway".
Route 66 would be aligned along a secondary highway through Avilla, Phelps, and Halltown.
The Ozark Trail was a private association that promoted better highways. Organized in the early 1900s it actively supported roadbuilding and lobbied with the authorities.
When US 66 was established in 1926 it was mostly aligned along these pre-existing trails.
Above is a map published in 1928 by the Missouri DOT, it shows that Route 66 running across the map, with a thick black line, this means it was paved: "Concrete or High Type Completed."
1956 Roadmap western Missouri. Credits
Click for large size map
The thumbnail map (click it to enlarge) was published in 1956, just before the interstate system was built. It is a Shell Highway Map of Western Missouri.
You can follow Route 66 from Springfield to Joplin (to the left). And parallel to it, beneath US66, its spur US 166 that continued into Kansas beyond Baxter Springs. I-44 would in part be aligned along US 166.
Route 66 from Springfield to Joplin
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Springfield, starting point of this leg
We will start on the eastern side of Springfield, cross the city and head west.
The thumbnail map (click on it to enlarge) shows all of the alignments of Route 66 across Springfield, Missouri.
1926-1930 Route 66 into Springfield
Coming from Strafford, towards Springfield the first alignment of Route 66 had a zig-zag alignment with sharp 90° turns. This is the US 66 1926-30 alignment into Springfield
1930-77 Route 66 (City 66) into Springfield
When it was paved around 1930 it was given a new alignment further north and it entered the city along what is now MO-66 and Glenstone Ave. it met the old alignment and went across the city. map of City US 66 in eastern Springfield.
Then it followed the original 1926 alignment through Springfield's downtown area.
1926-77 Route 66 (City 66) across Springfield
This is the map of City US 66 map across downtown Springfield.
1936-54 Bypass 66 around Springfield.
In his "Guidebook to US Highway 66", Jack Rittenhouse pointed out back in 1946 that "There are two routes: through the town on City 66 or around it on Bypass 66" the bypass was created in 1936 because traffic congested the commercial district of Springfield (it also carried US 65) so a bypass was approved and built around the city.
It solved the problem. Rittenhouse added that those driving "Straight through in a hurry" should take the bypass because it "avoid[ed] city traffic".
The bypass ran westbound along Kearney until reaching what is now US 160, and there took a left, southbound to what is now I-44 Business loop, where it met the other alignment, turned right and headed west. It is shown in Pale Blue in the map above.
It would remain in use until 1954. Bypass 66 map.
1955-1977 Route 66
In 1955 Route 66 was aligned along I-44 and remained there until it was decertified in both Illinois and most of Missouri in 1978.
Original 1930 roadbed
There is a section of the original 1930s Route 66 Roadbed on the SE corner of the intersection of Kearney and Glenstone. Here is where the road from Strafford curved southwards towards Springfield. This is a map of the segment, 0.2 miles long.
West side of Springfield: Plano and Halltown
After crossing the town, all alignments meet at US 160 and W Chestnut Expressway, and head west, leaving Springfield behind.
The 1926 - 1960 US 66 alignment was modified just west of I-44's exit 72. To fit the western access ramps, former US-66 (now MO-266) was moved to the north and then south again. Cutting off the original alignment. This road segment became Trail View Rd. next to Deer Lake Golf Course (map of the cutoff segment and map of the missing roadbed in orange).
The highway followed what is now MO-266, towards Plano. Before reaching it, there were two "Bloody Bridges": one on a curve at Pickering Creek and another dangerous bridge at Sac River. The road was straightened out in 1972 (when it was no longer used as US66) and you can see the original Route 66 alignment in this map of the missing roadbed in pale blue.
See this Map 1926-60 US66 Springfield to Halltown.
Below is a "Then and Now" image sequence from the 1950s and nowadays of Route 66 on the eastern side of Halltown.
Same spot nowadays, entering Halltown from the east along Route 66 (same barn marked with red arrow).
Halltown Bridge (1923)
Just west of Halltown is an original narrow steel bridge. It was built in 1923 and carries Route 66 across Billies Creek. It is a riveted single-span Pratt Pony Truss. See picture.
1960 - 1978 alignment
After 1958 (the MO DOT map shows it in the early 1960s) Route 66 was realigned further north together with I-44. The overlapped around the city. At that time the former alignment along Kearney St. became BR-66.
Halltown remained on Route 66 until 1961 when Route 66 was aligned along former US-166 together with I-44. Route 66 and I-44 split at Exit 57. US 66 ran to the NE into Paris Springs, meeting the 1926-60 alignment coming from Halltown.
The road east of Halltown into Springfield then became MO-266.
Paris Springs and Spencer
The thumbnail map (click on it to enlarge) shows the different alignments west of Halltown, through Spencer and Paris Springs.
- 1926-1960 Alignment. Shown in Green in the image map. See map
- 1960-1977 Alignment. Blue line in the image map. Map
There are two very old (almost 100 years!) bridges, both built in 1923, between Paris Springs and Spencer. The first one crosses Turnback Creek; it is a triple pony-struss bridge, pictured below.
The second bridge is just ahead, as the highway turns west into Spencer, it is a riveted steel bridge, "5-panel Pratt Through Truss", it is pictured above.
Old Segment in Miller
The thumbnail map (click to enlarge) shows the two alignments west of Spencer. In red, the original 1926-61 Route 66 roadbed. The blue line is the alignment after 1961 that bypassed Spencer. Notice how the later alignment runs towards Heatonville south of the original roadbed. The dashed line is the segment cut by the 1961 realignment. The image below looks east from the north side of the 1961 US66, the gray shaded area shows the missing section cut by the later U.S. 66 alignment. (1) shows the 1926-61 alignment and (2) the alignment after 1961.
On the western side of Spencer the original roadbed (1) runs in a parallel course to the 1960 alignment (2), a few feet to your right on the north side of the later alignment. See this Map.
West of Spencer and over the next 30 miles, the highway has a clear east-to-west alignment and goes through a series of small villages strung along it: Heatonville, Albatross, Phelps, Rescue, Plew, and Avilla. This straight alignment ends on the eastern side of Carthage.
This is the map of this section.
The 1955 Realignment of Route 66 in Phelps
In Phelps the town's buildings are on the north side of MO-96, next to a "frontage road" and that there are no buildings on the south side of the higway. This is so because the frontage road was the original alignment of U.S. 66 through Phelps. It was "straightened out" in 1955.
This realignment meant that all the buildings lying in the way of the newer (present) alignment were demolished.
Route 66 in Carthage, MO
There are several alignments across Carthage.
In the early 1900s there were some roads that could be driven by cars (in fair weather). The map below, published in 1900, shows (marked with red arrows) the course of one of these roads which would become the Auto Trail No. 2 (Jefferson Trail or old Jefferson Highway) through Carthage (1915-1926), and it was paved and designated as Missouri State Highway No. 1 after 1921. In 1926 it became U.S. 66.
Maps of US 66 in Carthage
The map above shows the different US 66 alignments into Carthage. Below are detailed maps:
1926-54 US 66
- East of Carthage. It followed Jiminy Ln. (Lake Kellow didn't exist until 1953), and crossed Spring River on a bridge built in the 1920s and removed in 1954, only the abutments of the old bridge remain in place. See the old alignment in this specially prepared map (red line)
- Dogleg into downtown, the highway had a grade crossing on the railroad along River St. and then turned sharply west onto Central Ave.
- Dogleg eliminated (1934), in 1934 a viaduct was built across the railroad avoiding the grade crossing and the 90° turn.
- Downtown and westwards (1926-34) to modern I-49BL.
- 1926-34 (yellow line) crossing I-49BL.
- West of I-49BL into Carterville
The zig zag at current I-49BL was eliminated in 1934 with a straighter alignment, see below:
1954-76 US 66
On the eastern side of the city, a wider roadway was built in 1953 north of the old one. Lake Kellog was formed as a borrow pit, when 28 acres of land were dug up and the earth used on Route 66's new 1953 alignment. The land belonged to the Kellogg Farm and its owners deeded it to a local wildlife and conservation organization as the site of a lake for fishing and recreation. Fed by water pumped from Spring River, it opened in 1954.
In the town, by 1963 Route 66 avoided the urbanized Oak St. alignment. Instead it joined US-71 and went west along Central Ave, curving to the South West along a now truncated West Old 66 Blvd. This road then met the older alignment by the Municipal Park.
See the maps below with the changes in the alignment, otherwise it follows the previos roadbed.
- East of Carthage
- Westwards to the curve
- missing roadbed at curve (green line) Now cut by I-49BL.
- extant roadbed south of I-49BL
Alt Route 66
Rittenhouse in his 1946 guidebook tells us that Route 66 forked on the eastern side of Carthage: "City 66 turns left, main US 66 goes straight ahead", the city route was shorter had light traffic and did not slow you down.
You can see the Alt 66 alignment (built in 1933) along the north side of the city in this map of Alt 66.
In 1958 Missouri DOT map and the 1963 the USGS map of the area show that US 66 was realigned along what is now I-49 BL. Route 66 continued going through Carterville as BR 66 along Main St. (map of BR 66).
1937-45 US66. Later Alt 66
It continued west and then curved into MacArthur Dr. to reach Joplin further west as shown in this map.
1958-78 Route 66 in Carterville and Webb City
As mentioned further up, in 1958 US 66 was realigned with US 71 along what is now I-49 BL, from Madison St. in Webb City, on the southern and western side of the town, and Carterville. See this 1958-78 alignment Webb City and Carterville.
After 1978 the Mother Road was cut short and ended just east of Joplin, no longer going through any other city in Missouri (more on this further down).
Map of Route 66 in Joplin
The thumbnail map (click it to enlarge) shows the different alignments of Route 66 through Joplin. The following color key applies to this map:
- Green: The 1926 to 1937 alignment from Joplin to Webb City (Map)
- Blue the 1937 to 1945 alignment which later became U.S. 66 Alt. also known as "Bypass" from 1945 to 1972 (Map)
- Pale Blue: The 1945-1978 "City" or "Main" alignment of Route 66 through Joplin. (Map)
Why did the 1926 alignment have such a winding course?
The meandering and twisting course of Route 66 in its first alignment has a very simple explanation: it followed the rails of the Southwest Missouri Electric Railway, a streetcar (tramway) that linked Carthage, Carterville, Webb City and Joplin with Galena Kansas and Miami in Oklahoma. The company was established in 1893 and transported many passengers until the car began taking over. By the time U.S. 66 was created it had already began using buses instead of streetcars. Shortly after it lifted its tracks and the old railroad bed became the new U.S. 66 highway roadbed and shared with U.S. 71. This route was replaced by a more direct one with less curves and therefore quicker and safer in 1937.
To state line MO-KS
Head wes along 7th from Main. It is only 5.8 miles to the Kansas state line along Old Route 66. There is a fork on the higway just before you reach the it.
The original 1926-61 alignment heads west as "West Old 66 Blvd." As you approach Kansas (only 0.5 miles west) you will come across some "last chance" gas stations on Route 66 right beside the Kansas state line. This was a bustling community called "Central City", it also had many liquor stores which served the Kansans at a time when Kansas was a "dry" state.
The Final Route 66 alignment in Joplin 1978-85
On June 24, 1974, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (or AASHTO) decided to move the eastern terminus of Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois to western Missouri, placing it close to Joplin in Missouri.
This shortened Route 66 eliminating its designation in Illinois and most of Missouri.
The new eastern terminus was located at I-44's exit 15 east of Joplin, in the town of Scotland MO (see it on a map).
It wasn't implemented immediately, but you can see it in this MO DOT map from 1978.
Our itinerary from Springfield to the Kansas - Missouri state line in Joplin ends here, you can carry on westwards into Kansas, see below.
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Credits and Sources
Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.
Route 66 Maps. Missouri D.O.T.