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Thursday, Sept. 25, 2003 02:20 pm

The Road Home

Everyone knows Route 66 started in Illinois. But even before the legendary highway was created in 1926, the Prairie State had already built a paved road connecting Chicago and St. Louis. That road, established in 1918, went by two names: the Pontiac Trail and State Route 4. The Pontiac Trail followed Indian paths, and the lanes were only nine feet wide. Sections of State Route 4 were paved with brick. In 1939 the lanes were widened to 11 feet; stretches of this road still exist near Joliet and Litchfield. The lanes were widened to 12 feet the next year, and in 1946 Route 66 became a four-lane highway. In Springfield, the path of Route 66 changed several times. At various points in its history, it ran down Dirksen, South Grand, MacArthur, and Second and Ninth streets.