Albuquerque to revamp Route 66 as 100th birthday nears

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – As Route 66 is about to turn 100 years old, city officials and the arts community are trying to make a shared vision of revitalization a reality. 

“When I moved here, there were a ton of empty signs on Central and I had this crazy idea that maybe they could be turned into sites of public art,” Ellen Babcock said.

That idea inspired Babcock and Lindsey Fromm to form the Friends of Orphan Signs in 2010. 

“We have transformed signs on vacant lots and abandoned storefronts that make them feel more visually appealing. We’ve noticed that several of these sites have since been developed,” Babcock said.

Sites, such as the Tradewinds Shopping Center near Central and San Mateo. Before it opened, the friends showed its potential with various attention-getting signs.

Now, they’re using what they’ve learned on their projects to collaborate with the City of Albuquerque on the Revamp Route 66: Sign Improvement Grant Program

“We are not giving up on Route 66. We will do what we can to reinvest in this historic mother road,” said Mayor Tim Keller. 

$432,000 is on the table for business owners to clear a hurdle leaders have faced – funding.

“I’ve always felt we could do a better job capitalizing on this tremendous asset we have,” City Councilor Klarissa Peña said. “We’ve had opportunities to do this before, but it really put the onus on business owners and really made it kind of unattainable.”

The new grant program will cover burdensome costs such as design, construction and permits. All to revive a historic part of our state.

Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M. Photo by Richard Estrada.

“Your signs are important cultural assets. They were once landmarks of mid-century design. We believe your signs can become landmarks once again,” Lindsey Fromm said.

Applications are open now through October 15 for the grant program. The city is also planning other events for Route 66’s 100th birthday in 2026. 

For more information on the program, the application form and more, click here