Corridor plan sought by officials

By Chelle Delaney: QCS Correspondent

Coming up with a Historic Route 66 Corridor Management Plan for Quay County could help Tucumcari businesses win federal and state grants for property improvements along the highway, presenters said Friday at the introduction of a workshop for city and business leaders.

The workshop — which continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Tucumcari Convention Center, will focus on plan requirements by federal agencies from the Highway Administration to the National Park Service.

Corridor management plans have helped other cities along Route 66 preserve their historic icons and the cultural flavor of the old highway. In turn, that has often generated more local interest and tourism, officials said.

“There’s a need for local historic corridor management plans,” said Michael Romero Taylor, director of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, which is based in Santa Fe and part of the National Park Service.

Developing a plan enables cities and towns along Route 66 to put together long-term goals and proposal packages to different state and federal agencies for funding, Taylor said.

The historic Route 66 covers eight states from Chicago to Los Angeles. It also goes through the middle of downtown Tucumcari, where motels, such as the Blue Swallow, have become icons of the famed highway. In 1985, Route 66 was decommisoned and replaced by five interstates. The four-lane interstates also drew traffic and dollars away from the towns along Route 66.

Since the National Park’s Route 66 program was established by Congress in 2000, 61 grants totaling $927,711 have been awarded for projects along the highway. Another $817,915 was generated by the matching grant requirement either in dollars or in-kind funding.

Receiving a National Park Service grant is like the Good Housekeeping stamp of approval and can help a project win other funding, Taylor said.

“It’s not that much, but we like to look at it as the sparks to get projects going,” Taylor said. “There are other monies out there. The job then is find ways to get it.”

Some historical neon signs in Tucumcari that have already received funding for refurbishing through the Park Service program are the Blue Swallow Motel, the La Cita restaurant and the Teepee gift shop.

Another program that was introduced at the meeting is the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program, which recognizes and enhances selected roads based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational or scenic qualities.

“New Mexico was the first to have a highway (Route 66) designated as a National Scenic Byway,” said Cynthia C. Tidwell, one of the facilitators for the workshops.

“The Scenic Byways program can be a funding engine,” she said.

Quay County Commissioner Bill Curry said anything that would help Tucumcari preserve its Route 66 motel strip and other distinctive signage would help bring more visitors to the city.

Bill Kinder, co-owner of the Blue Swallow, said he wants to see how the plan will develop.

“I want to see how it is going to help the town of Tucumcari,” Kinder said. “The town needs to get behind it.”