An iconic stretch of historic Route 66 in northeastern Oklahoma could soon have a new name — the Donald J. Trump Highway.
State Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, said he’s filed legislation to honor Trump’s successful economic policies. The lawmaker suggests renaming the roughly 4-mile stretch of the iconic roadway that starts near Miami, Oklahoma, extends north and east through Commerce to the Industrial Parkway intersection in Ottawa County.
Supporters say the move would honor Trump for all he’s done to make America and Oklahoma great again the past three years.
While Dahm believes it’s a fitting tribute for the job-creating president, he said the mere idea of naming a highway after the Republican leader has generated some “extremely negative” reactions — even in a state where Trump won every county during the 2016 presidential election.
“Seems like pretty much everything with Trump is polarizing one way or another,” Dahm said on Wednesday. “My hope is this will spark conversations so that people can talk about differences and try to find common ground.”
So far, though, Dahm said the proposal has sparked “a lot of name calling” and claims that the plan will be a waste of taxpayer funds even though the costs to pay for new street signage won’t come from state coffers.
“A lot of people are very upset and emotionally disturbed about it,” he said. “Those that are opposed are adamantly opposed.”
Rhys Martin is among those concerned about the new designation. Martin, president of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, said the group supports the historic designation of the roadway. The history of the road covers nearly a century of progress through all manner of social circumstances, he said.
Tourists from the around the world come to explore the Route 66, which spans 2,400 miles through eight states, he said.
“Calling the road anything other than Historic Route 66 adds confusion and dilutes the uniquely American experience that the highway represents,” Martin said in a statement.
In a Twitter exchange, Republican Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who promotes state tourism, said he agrees with the association’s assessment that calling it anything other than Historic Route 66 “adds confusion and dilutes” the unique American experience.
In a statement, state Rep. Ben Loring, D-Miami, said all of the mayors and county commissioners who represent the communities that would be affected oppose the plan.
"This is not a political party divide," he said. "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, and I would suggest one in your own districts."
Still, the idea of naming a highway in Trump’s honor has supporters, including state Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, who co-authored the measure.
“It’s just a way of recognizing the success of the president,” Quinn said. “He’s done a tremendous job in my opinion and in many other’s opinion.”
But Quinn said he knows Trump is a polarizing figure.
“I promise you we’re still going to have a level of detractors regardless of what highway you put his name on,” Quinn said.
Still, Quinn said he’d be at the front line to ensure that the legislation does nothing to hinder those promoting Route 66.
Dahm, meanwhile, said Pinnell has already reached out to him to express concern about rebranding Oklahoma’s stretch of Route 66.
“I’ve very open to finding other areas or another highway to name after President Trump,” Dahm said.
Dahm said his ultimate goal is to name an Oklahoma highway in Trump’s honor.
“This is the heart of America, and Trump won all 77 counties here,” he said.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.