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New Rt 66 Bike Trail Stretch Dedicated

McLean County and state and federal elected leaders hope a bike trail will eventually extend from the northern border to the south end of McLean County.

On Wednesday they dedicated a new eight mile stretch of the Constitution Trail extending along Route 66 from Normal to Towanda. U.S. Representative Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap) said he is sponsoring a bill to make Route 66 a national historic trail."That designation puts us in a class that allows us to get federal funding through the National Park Service and would be run by the Park Service," said LaHood.

The Trump administration wants to cut the park service budget significantly. LaHood said he opposes the proposed cuts from his fellow Republican.

U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville)  is sponsoring a bill to create a Route 66 Centennial Commission to plan the 100th anniversary of the road in 2026.

"Now we are trying to get people to think about what it means to have a celebration that is worthy of such an historic road in our nation's history."

The bike trail could eventually extend from Chenoa  on the north side of the county to Mclean on the south.

County leaders said the eight mile stretch from Normal to Chenoa cost about $1.7 million in combined federal, state, and local funding. Work continues on trail from the south side of Bloomington to Funks Grove and Shirley.

Davis said the road continues to shape the state with $366 million in annual economic impact, nearly 3,000 thousand jobs, and more than $6 million in local tax revenue created from Route 66 tourism.

And as the ribbon cutting and dedication of the new trail was finishing, an example of that tourism appeared. A long distance biker rode up to the Towanda stop. Chris Carmichael of Auburn, CA said he is taking several years to bike the entire length of Route 66. This year he is doing Springfield to Chicago. Carmichael said he has been a fan of Route 66 since his childhood when his parents took the family on vacation the entire way from California.

Carmichael started the day in McLean and hoped to make Pontiac by dark. He said he has had some close calls with autos and trucks on sections of the mother road that do not have bike trails at the side, but the new section north of Normal is "smooth as a baby's bottom" and great to ride on.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.