Bernalillo County commissioners in New Mexico are planning to spend another $1.5 million to further support the construction of a visitor center along historic Route 66. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the allocation during a recent meeting.
The money has been set aside pending a comprehensive marketing analysis on the center. The additional funds bring the county’s total contribution to about $3.3 million. The state of New Mexico has contributed $2.6 million and the city of Albuquerque has committed just under $4 million toward the project. The estimated cost of the first phase of construction is about $12 million.
The visitors center would include a gift shop, exhibit space, a taproom, commercial kitchen, a 300-seat amphitheater and a drive-in movie screen. Officials have said the goal is to create a space that celebrates Route 66 while serving the local community.
Route 66, also called the “Mother Road,” was created in 1926 after the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation’s first federal highway system, bringing together existing local and state roads from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles. Small towns opened shops, motels and gas stations to pump revenue into local economies just as the nation’s car culture took off. Covering more than 2,400 miles, the highway ran through eight states. The route changed a number of times through the years and eventually became less of a destination thanks to new interstate highways.