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BLOOMINGTON -- Bicyclists are getting their kicks on Route 66 this week.

Thirty to 50 people each day began riding bikes from the old Chain of Rocks bridge in Granite City to urge construction of a bike path along the historic roadway.

The 375-mile trek, sponsored by the League of Illinois Bicyclists and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, ends Thursday in Chicago.

After pedaling into Bloomington late Monday afternoon, cyclists were scheduled to spend the night after hearing Greg Koos of the McLean County Museum of History speak on the highway's importance. The journey will continue Tuesday through Pontiac and Dwight.

The cyclists are following the Route 66 bike path as it exists now, a collage of rural roads near the highway as well as parts of the road itself.

Their goal is to promote efforts to build the Route 66 Trail, a paved bike path running the length of the highway's right-of-way across the state. About 25 miles are completed, according to League of Illinois Bicyclists vice president Doug Oehler of Bloomington. A majority of those lie in McLean County in Towanda, Chenoa and Lexington.

Oehler and McLean County assistant county administrator Bill Wasson said the county, Bloomington and Normal are awaiting word on a federal grant to fund 80 percent of the path's construction from Bloomington to Funks Grove. The communities and the county would provide the rest. Both men said the international tourist interest and the potential recreational opportunities justify the investment.

"It's such an American icon," said Oehler.

"We believe the improvements will increase both the safety and recreational opportunities available to people interested in walking or biking along the Route 66 corridor," Wasson added.

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