Will County towns get money for Route 66 centennial tourism

Grant includes money for Joliet, Plainfield and Lockport

A sign along North Ottawa Street marks historic Illinois Route 66 on Wednesday, Feb. 7th 2024 in Joliet.

The state has awarded a $1.2 million grant to Heritage Corridor Destinations for Route 66 projects, most of them in Will County.

The funding follows previous grants of $1 million-plus to the regional tourism bureau for each of the last two years, Bob Navarro, president and CEO of Heritage Corridor Destinations, noted in a news release announcing the grant.

Joliet Route 66 Diner in downtown Joliet

The funding is being used to enhance attractions along Route 66 for expected tourism in 2026, which is the 100th anniversary of the historic highway.

“As we prepare for the centennial anniversary of Route 66 in 2026, this funding will allow us to enhance current destinations and develop new attractions along this important piece of American history,” Navarro said in the release.

The grant includes:

• $180,000 for the city of Joliet for enhancements at the Route 66 park on Broadway Street and another $117,000 to the city for electric vehicle stations, landscaping and parking

• $180,000 for a “Turn Up the Volume’ exhibit at the Illinois Rock and Roll Museum on Route 66 in Joliet

• Two projects at the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which will get $75,000 for signage at the Old Joliet Prison and $60,000 for electric golf carts

• $180,000 to the Plainfield Historical Society for a “Pumped Up on Plainfield” exhibit

• $45,000 to Lockport for enhancements of a Route 66 monument

• $35,000 to the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet for an exterior centennial mural

• $225,000 to the city of Dwight for electric vehicle stations, landscaping and parking, and another $20,000 for construction at the Dwight Texaco station

• $52,000 to the city of Pontiac for an outdoor visitor kiosk.

“Route 66 is an iconic part of our nation’s history and identity, and the 100th anniversary will bring in tourists, historians, and travel enthusiasts from around the world to experience our communities,” state Rep. Larry Walsh, D-Elwood, said in the release.

Steven Strait, mayor of Lockport, stands with one of two new murals he designed that will be unveiled at a ribbon cutting on Saturday in downtown Lockport. The ribbon cutting will also celebrate the completion of Lockport's StoryWalk.