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End of US highway 66

View a map showing this route.

Photo credits: Chris Elbert; Scott Maness; Dan Resch; Jim Teresco; me

Approx. time period East terminus West terminus
1926-1936 Chicago, IL Los Angeles, CA
1936-1964 Chicago, IL Santa Monica, CA
1964-1974 Chicago, IL Pasadena, CA
1974-1976 Chicago, IL Topock, AZ
1976-1978 Gardner, IL Topock, AZ
1978-1979 Normal, IL Topock, AZ
1979-1980 (near Joplin, MO) Topock, AZ
1980-1985 (near Joplin, MO) Kingman, AZ

"Route 66" is the most famous of all the US highways. It was officially decommissioned in 1985, but that had the unexpected effect of increasing public awareness of the old "Mother Road". It is currently enjoying tremendous popularity, and many segments of its historic alignments are signed with "Historic Route 66" markers. For over 50 years the east end of US 66 was in Chicago IL - you can view photos from there on this page.

For the first ten years of its existence, the west end of US 66 was in downtown Los Angeles, on Broadway at 7th (US 101). The photo below is looking north on Broadway:

Resch, Sep. 2007

US 101 ran across the photo on 7th, and straight ahead was the west beginning of US 66. If you're heading the opposite direction on Broadway (south), you can see the sign below, posted at the original west terminus of US 66:

Resch, Sep. 2007

Despite what that sign says, I've heard it was actually 1936 when the US 66 designation was extended to Santa Monica, which is on the coast west of downtown LA. The photo below is looking west down Santa Monica Boulevard (historic route 66), where it ends at Ocean Avenue:

Elbert, Mar. 2005

Nearby is a Will Rogers/US 66 historical marker (click to view an 83k image). Perhaps for that reason, that intersection is often cited as the west terminus for historic US 66, but that was never the actual endpoint. Neither was the Santa Monica Pier (another vernacular endpoint of route 66). Maps as early as 1941 show that Olympic Boulevard went under Ocean Av to directly connect with the Pacific Coast Highway:

Gousha, 1961 (scan by Elbert)

US 101A wasn't routed along Ocean at all, so US 66 couldn't have ended there. Instead, route 66 traffic was directed southeast on Lincoln Boulevard to Olympic, where the designation ended at US 101A. Below is a photo from that perspective:

Elbert, Mar. 2005

Those cars are at the westernmost endpoint of US 66 - northbound US 101A was to the right on Olympic, and southbound was straight ahead on Lincoln. Today just past Olympic is the interchange with I-10 (known locally as the Santa Monica Freeway), which runs from here to Jacksonville FL: a distance of over 2400 miles.

That was the west terminus of US 66 for nearly 30 years. In 1964 CalTrans truncated it to Pasadena:

Google Maps Street View, 2008

That's looking east on Colorado Boulevard. For a time, this was the east end of CA 134, while CA 11 began to the right on Arroyo Parkway, and US 66 began straight ahead. But ultimately Caltrans didn't want US 66 at all, and within ten years they had removed the designation from their state completely - so its west end was at the Arizona state line at Topock (south of Needles):

me, July 2004

By that time, US 66 was co-signed with I-40, so it ended unceremoniously on the bridge over the river. The I-40 bypass around Kingman AZ was opened to traffic in 1980. At that time, AZDoT rerouted US 93 onto the interstate, and Alan Hamilton informs me that they also truncated the US 66 designation to I-40's exit 53 (where AZ 66 ends today):

Teresco, Oct. 2003

Meanwhile the east end of US 66 had been becoming obsolete as well: in 1976 it was truncated to Gardner IL, then to Normal IL in 1978. One year later, the US 66 designation was removed from the rest of Illinois, and most of Missouri as well. It's a little complicated, so I'll give some background: east of Joplin, US 66 originally went up through Webb City and Carthage, then followed what is now MO 96 to Springfield. At the time, US 166 followed I-44 out of Joplin (roughly), and then today's MO 174 from Mt. Vernon to Springfield. But when US 66's replacement route was complete (I-44 to St. Louis and I-55 to Chicago), it was re-routed such that it went straight east from Joplin (along old US 166) and ended at I-44's interchange 15 (where MO hwy. 66 ends today). The photo below shows that spot:


That's about 8 miles east of downtown Joplin. Business I-44 and MO 66 traffic are directed onto the ramp at right, which leads to eastbound I-44. Ahead was US 166, but now it serves as an off-ramp from westbound I-44. This is where US 66 ended from 1979 to its decommissioning in 1985. If you were to continue ahead about a quarter-mile and then turn around, you'd see what's shown in the photo below:


That's looking the opposite direction (west). Westbound I-44 exits and comes in from the lower left, and aligns due west ahead on what becomes 7th Street Joplin in a few miles. At lower right is old US 166, which is now just a frontage road for I-44 (or "outer road", as they call them in Missouri). This was the east beginning of US 66 for its final six years.