The Donald Trump highway has taken a detour.
Bowing to resistance from all sides, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, said Wednesday that he won’t pursue renaming a 4-mile stretch of Historic Route 66 in Ottawa County for the 45th president.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be a Donald Trump Highway somewhere in Oklahoma. It just means it won’t be associated with the Mother Road.
“I am open to working with anyone to find a satisfactory solution,” Dahm said.
The Route 66 Association of Oklahoma and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who is in charge of the state’s marketing and branding, both quickly panned the idea of naming part of the iconic road for Trump or any other political figure.
“I don’t want Historic Route 66 called anything except Historic Route 66,” Pinnell said Wednesday afternoon at a ribbon cutting for a visitor’s center along the old highway in west Tulsa.
“I don’t care if you want to call it Mother Teresa Highway or Donald Trump Highway; there is only one thing to call it, and that’s Historic Route 66.”
Pinnell and others have been working for months and even years to develop the route of the former U.S. 66 for tourism. Pinnell said a “uniform branding” is about to be rolled out.
But beyond that, some people long associated with the highway do not want it dragged into politics.
“Route 66 is not red or blue,” author and Route 66 historian Michael Wallis wrote on his Facebook page. “The Mother Road’s color is purple.”
The Route 66 Association of Oklahoma also panned the idea.
“The Route 66 shield … has become one of the most iconic symbols in the world, appearing throughout Europe, Asia and points around the globe,” the organization said in a statement on its Facebook page. “Officially calling the road anything other than Historic Route 66 adds confusion and dilutes the uniquely American experience that the highway represents.”
State Rep. Ben Loring, D-Miami, in whose district the proposed highway would have been located, said it could have a negative impact on tourism, which is important to the northeast corner of the state.
“All of the mayors whose communities would be affected and the County Commissioners join me in opposition to this idea,” Loring said in a written statement.
“This is not a political party divide. Many Americans with strong political beliefs and foreign tourists would avoid this section of Route 66 simply because of this legislation if it goes through. That is not fair to these communities.
“Please pick another road,” Loring said, “and I would suggest one in your own districts.”