New Kicks on 66

Gateway signage at a pivotal intersection in Albuquerque, NM
The Plexineon-restored sign opens up to the longest remaining urban stretch of Route 66, which is located in downtown Albuquerque and stretches for 18 miles.

I have a friend who once rode Route 66 by motorcycle, an adventure, he said, that left him with stories and reflections for the rest of his life. His only regret was that he had ridden solo and did not share all the experiences with someone else. People still flock to the Mother Road; some, like my friend, make the journey in search of answers. And to paraphrase the old song, others simply yearn to get their kicks on Route 66.

One place bustling with sentimental feel is in Albuquerque, NM, where new signage drapes over a divided four-lane stretch that heads west into downtown. Neon signage that once marked this spot has been upgraded to LED rope lighting in an effort to retain its charm – but with a more energy-efficient approach. Leading the effort for the city were Tony Gurule, energy and sustainability program manager, and Saif Ismail, energy specialists program manager. They consulted with a local lighting manufacturer’s representative, Alex Tackman of RKL Sales Corp., who recommended Plexineon from iLight Technologies (Chicago). 

The gateway project retained the base and much of the original signage design, which spans 97 ft. and stands 20 ft. tall. The electrical contractor reduced installation time and the need to shut down the intersection by pre-bending the Plexineon at iLight to as tight as 90°. On site, it was slipped into existing channels and clipped into place. The Plexineon product is available in lengths up to eight feet and neighboring pieces can be positioned up to 3/8 of an inch apart for seamless appearance. Up to 32 ft. of Plexineon luminaires can run on a single 100W supply. The product is made of UV-resistant plastic with an acrylic diffuser and is IP67-rated.

Though solutions like Plexineon and other LED neon-like replacements offer an appealing alternative, neon is still king when it comes to the vintage buildings along Route 66. In 1999, Congress enacted the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, an initiative designed to preserve significant buildings, neon signs, road segments and bridges along the famous road. The program was renewed in 2009, but is set to expire next year. Signs of the Times has highlighted some of the restoration program’s dedication to signage, including nine neon signs in New Mexico (see ST, November 2003, page 86) and the Meadow Gold and other signs in Tulsa, OK (see ST, August 2010, page 52). The program has helped fund 20 projects and has distributed $340,000 in grants in New Mexico alone.

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Signs of the Times September 2018

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