Williams, Arizona, USA

Williams is a city in Coconino County, Arizona, west of Flagstaff. Its population was 3,023 at the 2010 census. It lies on the route of Historic Route 66, Interstate 40, and the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route. Williams has the honor of being the very last town on Route 66 bypassed by the interstate. In 1921, downtown Williams had a 1.6-mile graded and cindered roadbed that had replaced an earlier muddy track. It was paved with Portland cement in two separate projects: the west end in 1928 and the east end in 1932. Population centers tended to be the first parts of Route 66 to be paved. Organized towns not only lobbied hard for pavement but also had the money to pay for it. Construction of motels, restaurants, curio shops, and gas stations soon boomed on the east end of Williams creating the Williams Historic Business District.

These businesses far outnumbered the traveler-related businesses on the west end of town, supporting the theory that towns along Route 66 tended to expand eastward to capture the abundant westbound traffic. In 1957, the Arizona Highway Department built a new overpass on the east end of town and dedicated Route 66 for westbound traffic. On October 13, 1984, Interstate 40 bypassed Route 66 through the center of town. Williams still looks much as it did in the 1940’s with its numerous curio shops, motels, and cafes. In both function and appearance, Williams embodies the spirit of historic Route 66.

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