Governor Pritzker Awards $6.6 Million for Route 66 Tourism Grants 

By Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

April 27, 2023

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced today in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity 58 awards totaling $6.6 million through the Route 66 Grant Program and Tourism Marketing Grant Programs to boost local tourism efforts and attract visitors to drive along what is left of the historic Route 66.

“Illinois truly is the middle of everything, as perfectly demonstrated by the hundreds of miles of America’s highway – Route 66 – that travels through our state,” Pritzker said in a statement. 

Pritzker said The Route 66 Grant Program will award $3.7 million in funding to seven recipients for the development of tourism, education, preservation, and promotion leading up to the 100th Anniversary of Route 66 in 2026.  Some 300 miles of Route 66 cut through through Illinois, and Pritzker claims Route 66’s economic and historical impact is felt firsthand in communities across Illinois.  It is hoped the grants will help develop and enhance sites along Route 66, with a focus on future transportation and tourism trends.  Some critics of the husky governor said the grants should be used to improve road conditions to help Illinois residents flee the state for better economic opportunity.

The award grants will support a variety of projects across the state, including the installation of iconic Route 66 signage, pylons, monuments, as well as investments in museums, exhibits, service areas and rest stops.  Many in Illinois know that Illinois restops are not in the best condition and attract weirdos throughout the state.

Oak Park will be granted funds to add or upgrade iconic stops along Route 66, including an illuminated Route 66 Gateway structure on Ogden Avenue, new Route 66 signage, and wayfinding signage to iconic Route 66 locations.

“Both Brookfield Zoo and the start of Route 66 are fan favorites among children and parents alike, and the State’s tourism marketing dollars will help them both continue to be a landmark for the next generation,” said Democrat Sen. Javier Cervantes.

According to Pritzker, $2.9 million in grants through the Illinois Travel and Tourism Grant Program will be awarded to 51 grantees to support local tourism promotional efforts.  It is expected that this program will provide funding for promotional efforts by local governments, municipalities, nonprofits, and local promotional groups such as Illinois’ Certified Convention and Visitor Bureaus.  This program is funded by a federal Economic Development Administration grant.

“The Village of Rosemont will soon be able to launch advertising campaigns to draw in out-of-state visitors thanks to the latest round of local tourism marketing grants,” said Democrat Sen. Robert Martwick.

Pritzker said the State (you the taxpayer) will match local funds used to promote destinations, attractions, and events through marketing such as promotional materials, media production costs, billboards, and promotional materials at trade shows. The goal of the program is to support promotional projects that increase visitation and overnight stays, thereby fueling the local economies across the state.

Grants were awarded to entities in every economic area of Illinois, with awards ranging from $9,640 to $100,000, with an average award of $57,502 for a total of $2.9 million. 

Frank Conklin, Illinois Political Columnist for The Chicago Times.  Views and comments expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Chicago Times.