This presentation is part of the Are We There Yet: Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions, April 10-12, 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Chad Moffett: Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming. Very happy to be here to talk with you today about the work that is being done on Route 66 in Oklahoma here. I really enjoyed Mr. Michael Wallace’s talk, and I was really struck by the imagery that he left us with. That Route 66 is alive. And he certainly brought that out in his presentation, with the many stories, and the people, and the culture, that’s associated with Route 66. I guess if you’re thinking about the road being alive, what I’m here to talk about, and Scott is here to talk about, are efforts that make up the spine, and the bones of a creature, that’s Route 66, that holds a lot of that other softer material. The stories. The soft material.
We’re going to be talking about the road itself. And the efforts of the Department of Transportation, as the steward of many sections of the historic roadbed, and its related features, and how they’re working to be good stewards of that and interpret the history of Route 66.
Route 66 is really called America’s Main Street. Most of the studies, many of the studies that I’m aware of that deal with the roadbed and the roadbed features, similar to what we’d be talking about in this short session, have been funded by various studies. The National Park Service has done special resource studies, there’s been economic impact studies in terms of the cultural tourism, and the associated features along the road that draw people, and many of the states have done various studies about the road too in various forms. The planners and the promoters really intended US 66 as it was designated to connect the main streets along the route so that it connected the rural and the urban communities, and that’s really how it got the name America’s Main Street.
The highway itself was designated as US Highway in 1926 as Michael had talked about earlier, that was done through the efforts of the American Association of State Highway Officials and the Department of Agriculture at that time, the Bureau of Public Roads, was housed within the Department of Agriculture during the early period of the development of the road. It grew out of the Good Roads Association of Movement, much of the route of Route 66 followed the National Trails Highway in many locations, and it really became a popular route that facilitated internal migration and the automobile related services and the travel along it that Mr. Wallace had talked about previously.
In its entirety extended, almost 2,500 miles, 2,448 miles through eight states, from Chicago to Santa Monica. The inspiration or the beginning of the road was heavily promoted by someone here, Cyrus Avery, that actually came from Tulsa, so there’s kind of a direct connection here between Route 66 and being here in Tulsa. He was the commissioner of the Tulsa County Highway Commission, and also the State Highway Commissioner before he started working with the Department of Agriculture to develop the US Highway Systems. So he was an advocate not only of US 66, but of the 11th Street Bridge, which we’ll be showing a little bit of later in the presentation.
So, the wide range of properties that developed along early US highways centered on providing that commercial services and the transportation for trucks and automobiles. We’re here to talk about the development of the building block, that spine or the bones of it, which includes the roadbed and the other structures that were integral into the roadbed meant to carry the traffic. In Oklahoma here, much of this work has been done by the State Historic, the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Department of Transportation, and by numerous other individuals.
Some of the early studies that have been completed are online, actually, through the DOT’s website. Here we have a couple screenshots of some various archives in the Memorial Highways and Bridges section of their website, in which there’s a study that was done in the 1990s that talks about the physical development of Route 66, and it also has a really interesting archive of historic images that the DOT had in their collections. So that’s a wonderful resource that’s available online.
Some of the work that I’ve been fortunate to help Scott with that we’ll be talking about, grew out of the early efforts to conduct an inventory of the actual alignment of Route 66 through the state and then also to identify some of those memorable and intact integral features that are located along the route, bridges, obelisks, sections of roadbed that are still intact, what have you. And on this slide you see one of those drawn maps that included in this 2002 study. The first part of this project was to digitalize the study and bring it up to kind of the current technology, I guess. And I’m just going to quickly run through some of that and talk about how that all came together.
Basically we started with the study into various maps that trace the route through the state, and we converted that into digital GIS mapping, and took the available information and plotted that as a series of lines and points. So we have an alignment that’s documented to the state, that talks about when the period of use of that particular alignment, and then the various resources that are along the alignment, it’ll talk about its location, its type, its name, any historical data associated with that. So if I’m lucky here, I’ll be able to kind of show you … is it control tab? Alt tab. We’ve got a presentation here … there we go.
This is a live version of this, it’s called a KML or KMZ file, it’s kind of the technology behind it is really driven by Google and Google Earth. But it’s got the whole state here, it has this legend just to help people because there’s various symbols on here and once you kind of start zooming in, it can be difficult to remember what they are. I’m just going to kind of zoom in here to Tulsa, and show you just how this map works, I think it’s really wonderful and it provides a very interactive tool and doesn’t matter where you are, you don’t have to be … you could be halfway around the world and use this.
For instance, we will be talking a little bit later about the 11th Street Bridge, and that shows up right in here. You can zoom in, and there’s a whole portion of information that provides you the information about the bridge, and provides you links to other valuable resources such as right up here, it takes you back to the original 2002 study. We were really serving to update this, not so much in a contextual or a historical research component, but there were many bridges and other features that just weren’t documented because of the timing of the study and certain limitations, so we included all the bridges along the alignment in the state, whether they were included in that 2000 study or not. And you’ll see here the type of information that will be included, if there was a national register nomination, a link to that was provided. If there were other studies that were available at other places online, that was provided and more specific information under these historical information. Then if there’s pictures that were associated with the resource, either that the DOT had or had been done for a recent project, or that we had available through Google, those were included, so here you see a picture of the 11th Street Bridge.
The other thing I want to quickly share was that this tool also provides information on the roadbed itself. And up here, we can see for instance a segment of roadbed that was documented as part of that study. And it tells you that it’s a historical alignment, I think I have to zoom in here a little bit further, it tells you … It takes you to the portions of the study that talk about this and the original study has these cross referenced in it, so you can learn more about this quarter mile stretch. It was 1931 alignment, it was made out of Portland concrete, so there’s a lot of good ways that this information was used to link the survey work that’s already been done to the work that’s being done all in one place.
Going back to our presentation, these are just some screenshots I prepared in the event that our online system didn’t work here, pretty much what I went through, here’s an example of a roadbed, and with that I’m going to turn it over to Scott.
Scott Sundermeyer: Thank you Chad. I should probably actually state that one of the reasons we tasked Mead & Hunt with integrating all of this information was because it was all archived in paper format or online PDFs, and the materials that we need to give a shout out to Mr. Jim Ross, that helped ODOT with this in the early 2000s, also an eminent Route 66 historian and author. But we recognized in 2008, ODOT along with Federal Highways, began working with creating the corridor management plan for the Route 66 Scenic Byway. Oklahoma has four National Scenic Byways, Route 66, the Cherokee Hills Byway, Talimena Scenic Drive, and Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway. This is generally what we use as a management plan for us when we look at stretches of Route 66 that still maintain their intrinsic qualities, and for us as a DOT, that’s largely the roadbed itself and the road features, like bridges and such.
We asked Mead & Hunt to assist us by integrating all of the information into that Google Earth layer, so that we knew what resources were historic, eligible, or listed on the National Register of Historic Places for a management tool for us. And also those that still retain their intrinsic quality, they might not be historic, but they still had the curves and the feel of Route 66, they still have the Portland concrete, et cetera. So this really has turned, the Google Earth tool has really turned into a nice management tool for us.
Now I want to move into how we’re taking the Google Earth material, and providing it in a format that might be useful for the casual Route 66 enthusiast, and I want to get into a little bit of what’s called Esri Story Maps. Story Maps let you combine maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content to tell a story. Our program’s goal is to use the story maps to connect the audience with historic transportation resources such as Route 66, and our wealth of historic bridges. If we can provide a platform that engages consulting parties and folks that we work with, then that’s very helpful for us. Our goal is to integrate the material from the Google Earth layer along with the work that SHPO has also done with their Mobile Tour, and hopefully have a one-stop experience that ideally at some point in time will be a smartphone app that uses the smartphone’s GPS technology to sort of orient you where you’re at. One of the things we found out in the past is that signage is often sporadic. Some communities like Clinton and Weatherford are very heavily invested in signage for their communities, but ODOT and the local county roads oftentimes don’t have very good signage.
So with that we’re going to hopefully get into just an example of how this story map works, let’s see if we’re already on … it doesn’t look like so I’m going to give it a … whoops. Well, there we are. So, ODOT’s dynamic and expanding GIS team has started working to integrate images, a sidewalk highway, and then there’s a little bit of text. Here we have the little Cabin Creek Bridge west of Afton, and it just moves from east to west on this. This is in its infancy right now, in fact, many of the images are directly from ODOT’s bridge files, we’re actively right now taking photographs of our resources and the resources that are on the SHPO Mobile Tour to create a more interactive experience. I hope to have this up and running by the end of spring. All of this information regarding the Google Earth layer and this app are in some brochures that I’ve put on the back table there, so hopefully you can grab some of those as well.
It looks like Chad put together a few screenshots as well, this is the SHPO, the State Historic Preservation Offices mobile tour, where you can click and there’s some audio that comes with this as well, and we’re going to integrate that into our story map as well. So we have one for the Horse Creek Bridge, and I don’t … this is Bird Creek right here. That obelisk that Chad was talking about, the Ozark Trails, and as I said, if you like you can visit our webpage, all of this information is in the brochure in the back, and we’re just continuing to compile Route 66 information on our webpage.
I also want to get into some context sensitive design as a transportation agency, it’s impossible for us to always integrate the goals of preservation with the mission of the department, which is to provide safe, efficient, affordable transportation for the citizens of Oklahoma. But when we can, we are also implementing context sensitive solutions in the design of new structures. This is a bridge in El Reno and this sort of gives you just a sort of, a quick image of what we plan to do with this bridge replacement project. This bridge is historic as well, it carries US 81 over the Union Pacific Railroad. It’s also a former alignment of Route 66, but we have some aesthetic treatments that we’re implementing into the design of the new structure. And the communities out west that, Weatherford, Clinton, El Reno that have these picket railings, they love them and they’re very attached to them, and we’re working to integrate them into the design of the new structures as well. Here’s a closer image.
And finally, I just want to sort of piggyback off of what Mr. Wallace said with some of the work that’s going on. I know for a fact the communities of Warr Acres, Bethany, and Oklahoma City are working together now collaboratively to develop sort of, use that heritage tourism aspect to bring more folks into their community. They’re identifying ways that they can interest in Route 66 and in fact as we speak, Oklahoma City’s mayor I believe, is being inaugurated right now, and this gentleman is a huge advocate of Route 66 and was very instrumental in providing signage through the town of, the city of Oklahoma City. So, looking forward to working with those folks in my capacity with the DOT.
Chad Moffett: Just to wrap up here, I think that from my perspective, Oklahoma has been really very proactive and a leader in terms of the DOT interpreting Route 66 and it’s been a real pleasure to work with them on the series of these projects. I just want to end with some of the more traditional types of interpretation that’s been done.
Here we have the more of interpretive outdoor panels, which are in the works for the 11th Street Bridge, here you see some panels that will be going up in the future that interpret that bridge that’ll be out on site. Here you can kind of see kind of where that’s going to be located, and you’ll be able to see that bridge right in front of you and learn about some of the history of that. We’re working to do some interpretive work for the what’s called the Twin Bridges near Catoosa. Here we’ve got an example in the middle as they’re being constructed, and then on the right side as they worked ones in 1836, 1938, 1956 bridge, and then here we have two of those trusses that were removed when one of those trusses was replaced. So we’re working to develop some interpretive signage on site there that someone can go there and interpret the bridge. If you can’t see it here, off into the distance here you can actually see the other truss that’s actually still in place. So there’s a visual connection from the site that’s really strong. And we’re also doing some work for Scott to interpret, in the future, the Horse Creek Bridge which we mentioned earlier. That’s an interesting bridge that has some really great railing associated with it and this wonderful sidewalk on both sides. And we’re working to provide that interpretive work in a nearby old gas station, it’s currently serving as the Afton, Route 66 Museum, so that’s really exciting.
And with that, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have.
Speaker 1: Who has the first question?
Speaker 2: Thank you very much, I was not aware of a lot of those resources and I do some research on Route 66, so thank you both very much for providing that. I understand that the Horse Creek Bridge in Afton is endangered. Can you guys talk about that a little bit?
Scott Sundermeyer: Sure, yes. The Horse Creek Bridge carries, I don’t know the numbers offhand right now, I believe it’s 6,500 vehicles a day. It’s extremely narrow, and it was placed on the eight year work plan, I don’t know, five, six years ago? The division has recognized a need to widen the structure, and so it went through an analysis, an engineering analysis that determined that it was insufficient to carry the traffic that it currently carries and that it can’t be rehabilitated to continue to carry that traffic. So this is a replacement alternative on this one. I talked about the context sensitive solutions, and I realize that these are sometimes unacceptable to the preservation community, but the Department has a mission, and we do give historic resources every due opportunity in the review, and federal highways has to review the math and the engineering analysis that we put behind it, and eventually approve or not approve the project. And in this case it really stood up that this structure could not continue to exist in its current capacity. So we are going with some context sensitive railings on that structure, and as Chad pointed out, some of the mitigation for that is an interpretive panel that will be housed at the Afton Station as well. So, that bridge is moving forward as a replacement.
Speaker 3: Hi, so it’s really fantastic to see all of the things that you’re doing to help take this information that was on paper and to make it available digitally. And I’m really interested in, from a heritage tourism perspective, thinking about actually two questions. One would be for travelers who are coming in, how would they find out about what is going on so that they could be able to access this information as one piece. And then second question, with knowing that Route 66 is an eight state experience, it would be great if for the traveler it’s a seamless experience and you can go from state to state and be able to access this thing, so wondering if you’ve had conversations with other DOTs, other State Preservation Offices, so that this great information that you’re working on here could potentially be part of a larger, integrated, eight state system.
Scott Sundermeyer: That is an excellent question. I do in fact have routine conversations with our other state DOTs, but it often involves larger umbrella preservation issues and not necessarily Route 66 by itself. Our former Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer was Melvina Heisch, a huge Route 66 advocate who was beginning to integrate me into those conversations with the groups that she was involved with. She’s not there anymore, and so I may have sort of lost that contact a little bit.
Regarding your question about how we’re making this information available, it really is sort of just an effort just like this, trying to be transparent about our process, coming to conferences such as this and discussing Route 66. Oftentimes it’s at the local level, it might be at the Preservation Oklahoma Conference or something like that. But presenting this material, bringing these brochures with me, and sharing them, but I would love to talk with anybody about an opportunity to work more closely with Missouri DOT, I mean some of these folks I’m on a first-name basis with as well, so. Mike [inaudible] I think is the culture resource manager there, I’d love an opportunity to try to make a seamless experience like you’re saying.
Speaker 1: Next question.
Speaker 4: Have you guys had any sort of creative mitigation with any of your resources on Route 66? The interpretive panels are good, but in state government like we are they always want to have quantitative, you know, how many people are actually showing up to these interpretive panels, have you ever thought about doing audio tours, or things like that? We’ve used it a lot in Arkansas, because then we can put a number on it and go back to our SHPO or the Highway Department and say, “This many people have gone to the tour, have been through this,” is that anything that’s crossed your guys’ mind?
Scott Sundermeyer: As conservative as Oklahoma is, I think how we consider what we’ve started doing for the 11th Street Bridge and Horse Creek, that’s creative for us right now. I mean, that’s kind of a big step to get some of the folks at, you know, higher up at the DOT to agree to certain things, but we’re recognizing this is an international resource that’s important and trying to sell that to each of the division engineers who have Route 66 in their division has been a challenge sometimes. But again, I would love to try to find a way to tabulate, quantify who’s using these resources. We actually haven’t implemented any of them yet either, so we don’t have a way to, we don’t have any of the interpretive panels put up. Also, creative mitigation is something that’s on our radar. Up until five years ago we were still just document destroy, to the HABS-HAER type stuff. So.
Speaker 1: And our last question.
Speaker 5: Actually this is in response to that, just to throw out a couple of other ideas that have … actions that have taken place as creative mitigation for such things as when it was a bridge. A Route 66 bridge that was taken out on tribal land, and the mitigation for that was an oral history project to interview the tribal community about their experience of Route 66, and it turned into a fantastic document which has been picked up on by some nonprofit tribal organizations and it’s now become turned into a travel guide on the … for the tribal experiences of Route 66, which may be coming up.And then one other example of creative mitigation that I’ve seen was a concrete pavement preservation research document that Illinois undertook, so.
Scott Sundermeyer: I guess that might be an example of information that’s, you know, lost somewhere. For me I did not know those existed, so, you know, at the local level these creative activities are taking place, but maybe if there was another source for it all to be compiled together it would be great.
Scott Sundermeyer is the Cultural Resources Program Director for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Scott received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. He coordinates all Section 106 consultation with the Oklahoma SHPO and manages the review and coordination for project impacts that may impact resources related to Route 66.
Chad Moffett is market lead and project manager for Mead & Hunt, a nationwide professional services firm. He has worked extensively to document Route 66 in California including the development of a historic context and Multiple Property Document, along with an inventory of the various alignments of the Route 66 roadbed along with hundreds of road-related properties along the route. He received a Master’s degree in Cultural Resources Preservation from the University of Wisconsin. Chad works extensively with state departments of transportation on activities to comply with Section 106, Section 4(f) and CEQA. Chad assisted ODOT with interpretation of Route 66 in Oklahoma.