Eastbound and down from D.C. to San Diego
The Bankhead Highway blazed a trail of exhaust smoke across North Texas, cutting a red line on the Texas map from Texarkana to El Paso. It was the first wet-weather road across the continent through the South from the White House in Washington D.C. to the beach in San Diego, Calif. Of the road's 2,690 miles, 850 miles crossed Texas.
Imagine a paved road suitable for the rubber automobile tires of the day instead of muddy horse trails connecting neighbors and distant markets. In some places west of Fort Worth, the highway is still identifiable by the locally made red Thurber paving bricks. In places, the auto trail – when it hasn't been covered by modern renditions of highways 67 and 80 – is a tree-lined shoulderless road with the ghostly remains of service stations and tourist courts.
The Bankhead Highway was inaugurated in 1916, three years after the Lincoln Highway, the nation's first coast-to-coast roadway. It was named for a U.S. Representative from Alabama who helped pass the first federal aid to interstate roads.
The Texas Historic Commission is assembling information on the Texas section of the highway for a 2014 report. The last remnants of the road veer off into the small towns from the path cut by interstate highways 30 and 20 through Mt. Vernon, Weatherford, Abilene, and Van Horn. For information on the survey project, look under "Preserve" and "Historic Texas Highways" at www.thc.state.tx.us.
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