State awards $4 million in funding for Route 66 projects

The grants will go toward modernizing attractions along Route 66 leading up to the fabled road’s 100th anniversary year.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is awarding $4 million in grants for various projects across the state designed to spur tourism, bolster educational opportunities, and support an increase of Electric Vehicle (EV) travel – which will create and modernize attractions along the Mother Road leading up to the 100th Anniversary of Route 66.

This grant was awarded to Great Rivers and Routes CVB, Heritage Corridor CVB, Visit Oak Park CVB, and Springfield CVB for innovative projects that span Route 66 throughout the state.

“These projects honor the history of Route 66 while also building for the future with new attractions and upgrades that benefit communities across Illinois,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “I can’t think of a better way to prepare for Route 66’s centennial celebration than revitalizing and creating attractions along the Mother Road.”

Projects include: the installation of EV charging stations along Route 66 in Berwyn, Pontiac, and Wilmington; an interactive Virtual Reality exhibit designed to highlight the experience of Black Americans living or traveling along Route 66 in Springfield; transforming a service station into a Route 66 Visitors Center in Edwardsville; and a statewide Route 66 marketing campaign.

“From forward-looking projects like new electric vehicle charging stations, to projects that recognize Illinois’ rich history, these Route 66 projects truly bridge the past and present of one of America’s greatest road trips,” said DCEO Director, Sylvia I. Garcia

With more than 300 miles of Route 66 in Illinois from its starting point in Chicago to the Chain of Rocks Bridge, Route 66’s economic and historical impact is woven into the fabric of communities across the state. Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in America, and it serves as an important historical and cultural symbol.

“Route 66 in Illinois is a driver for both national and international travelers and these state grant funds will go a long way towards reinvigorating our Mother Road tourism products in southwest Illinois. We applaud the forward thinking of Governor Pritzker and state legislators who recognized the need to invest in this national road,” said Cory Jobe, Chair of the Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission and President/CEO of the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau.

“Our region includes the Last 100 Miles of Route 66 in Illinois, and we plan to use the grant funds for a variety of innovative projects that benefit our communities. It’s key we do all of this now so we can take part in state and national celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Mother Road in 2026,” he said.

Robert Navarro, president and CEO with the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau added, “I’m absolutely thrilled about being awarded a Route 66 Grant from DCEO.  As we prepare for the centennial anniversary of Route 66 in 2026, I’m excited this grant program will allow for domestic and international marketing, new exhibits and roadside attractions along The First Hundred Miles, creation of a new Route 66 Welcome Center in Joliet, and EV stations in two both Wilmington and Pontiac. Both cities are popular stops along Illinois Route 66 and these new EV charging stations will allow visitors to linger longer by shopping, dining, and exploring while charging their EV on their iconic road trip experience.”