U.S. Route 66 (New Mexico)
US_66.svg

The Route

The routing of U.S. 66 through was established in 1926, and was decommissioned in 1981 with the completion of Interstate 40 through the state.

Arizona to Laguna Pueblo

This section of US-66 passed through the cities of Gallup and Grants. Commissioned in 1926, this portion of US-66 passes through rugged terrain crossing the Continental Divide. The original US-66 route meanders around the more-modern Interstate 40, and in some locations I-40 uses the old US-66 alignment.

Laguna Pueblo to Santa Rosa

Pre-1937 Alignment

From Laguna to Los Lunas, US-66 followed the present-day New Mexico Highway 6 prior to 1937. At Los Lunas, US-66 turned north, following New Mexico Highway 47 (former US-85 route) to Albuquerque. US-66 passed through downtown Albuquerque on Fourth Street, then continued north on the former US-85 alignment through Santa Fe to the junction of US-84 west of Las Vegas. US-66 then followed the present-day US-84 routing southeast to Santa Rosa before turning east toward Tucumcari.

Post-1937 Alignment

After 1937, US-66 was shifted to a more-direct alignment which is largely the present-day Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque and east of Moriarty. US-66 passed west-to-east through Albuquerque as Central Avenue, which is still a heavily traveled thoroughfare today. East of Albuquerque, US-66 followed Central Avenue to New Mexico Highway 333, and followed present-day Highway 333 to Edgewood, where it continued as a local service road to Moriarty.

Santa Rosa to Texas

The former alignment of US-66 largely follows present-day I-40, except for bypasses around Santa Rosa and to the north of Tucumcari.

History of U.S. Route 66

The route of US-66 was commissioned in 1926. Originally, the route entered the state from Arizona, passing through Gallup, Grants, and Laguna Pueblo. It then turned southeast along present-day Highway 6 toward Las Lunas. US-66 then turned north, along Highway 47, following the Rio Grande River through Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It then turned east toward Las Vegas, then veered southeast along the present-day US-84 toward Santa Rosa. West of Santa Rosa, US-66 turned east, following a straight alignment through the remainder of New Mexico, passing through Santa Rosa and Tucumcari before continuing into Texas.

After 1937 the alignment of US-66 was shifted to a more direct route between Laguna Pueblo and Santa Rosa, passing through Clines Corners, Moriarty, then taking over the former US-470 alignment between Tijeras and Albuquerque. Instead of passing north-south through Albuquerque, US-66 now passed east-west through the city on Central Avenue. US-66 continued across the West Mesa past the village of Lost Horizon, and crossed the Rio Puerco River east of Laguna Pueblo, before rejoining its original alignment east of Laguna.

I-40.svg

President Eisenhower signed the Highway Act in 1956, establishing the Interstate Highway System. Construction of Interstate 40 in New Mexico began in 1957. Sections of I-40 west of Tucomcari and between Santa Rosa and Clines Corners were open to traffic by 1960. Another section of I-40 from east of San Jon to the Texas state line opened in 1969. US-66 through Albuquerque was bypassed with the opening of I-40 from Moriarty to Grants in 1970. By the early 1970s, most of US-66 through New Mexico had already been upgraded to I-40, although the final sections bypassing Grants, Gallup, Santa Rosa, Moriarty, and Tucomcari were still not finished, and traffic using I-40 would revert to US-66 while passing through these towns. Interstate 40 bypassed the former US-66 alignment through Santa Rosa in 1972, Moriarty in 1973, Grants in 1974, Gallup in 1980. Finally, US-66 through New Mexico was decommissioned with the opening of I-40 around the northern edge of Tucumcari.

Route 66 After Decommissioning

Segments of Route 66 that did not become part of I-40 were redesignated as state or local roads. Original sections through Glenrio, San Jon, Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Moriarty, Grants and Gallup became Business Loop I-40. The section from Moriarty, through Tijeras Canyon to Tramway Boulevard became New Mexico Highway 333. West of Tramway Boulevard, Central Avenue through Albuquerque was designated as Business Loop I-40 until 1995, when Business Loop I-40 was decommissioned and ownership of Central Avenue was transferred from the state to the City of Albuquerque. The pre-1937 alignment exists today as New Mexico Highway 6 from Los Lunas to the Laguna Pueblo.

Future of U.S. Route 66

Remaining segments of the former US-66 route through New Mexico are fairly well-signed with "Historic Route 66" signs, and the New Mexico Department of Transportation continues to place the US-66 shields on its green signs at interchanges where the US-66 alignment leaves Interstate 40.

There are preservation groups throughout the country that are actively working to place "Historic 66" signage on as much of the former US-66 route, and some members are pressing the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to restore Route 66 to US-Highway status. There are no immediate plans however, to restore US-66 to its former status, although the topic continues to be hotly debated.

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