Moore started his career with the Southern Pacific Railway as a conductor
in California, and worked his way up the ladder to become, for seventeen
years, a construction engineer for Southern Pacific lines running
east of El Paso.
As the automobile came into vogue along with roads to accommodate
it, Moore decided that the roads being built for cars and trucks were
a lot less durable than the tracks laid down for railroads.
"Highway failures are due to the rut," he told the New York Railroad
Club in 1922. This observation led him to come up with an idea for
building a more permanent highway. He first called it the Permanent
Track Highway, but it would eventually be better known as the
Invisible Track Highway.
Moore designed his highway with four permanent treadways, built mostly
of reinforced steel and brick, and a surface of crushed stone and
asphalt "of considerable width" running between each pair of 26-inch
treadways. All the driver had to do was stay on the treadway.
The early roads weren't very good, but they were quite expensive to
build and maintain, and Moore believed he had the right idea at the
right time. He pitched his idea to Texas Governor James "Pa" Ferguson,
who might have liked or even understood the concept, but who definitely
Texas only had 100 miles of paved road in 1923 when the Texas Highway
Department (now the Texas Department of Transportation) assumed responsibility
for the maintenance of the state's roads through an act of the 35th
legislature. Ferguson signed the legislation creating the highway
department in 1917, and for the rest of his public life, he and his
wife and future governor, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, used the new state
agency as their own cash cow and milked it for every cent they could.
Pa Ferguson made sure the sixteen-mile stretch of road would run from
Belton to Temple
in the Fergusons' home county of Bell.
Frank Denison, the project's contractor, proposed using concave rollers
to create "tracks" in the highway, an idea he described as "revolutionary."
Denison had never built so much as a single mile of road in his life,
so he subcontracted the work to a pal in Fort
Worth who agreed to buy all of the equipment he needed for highway
from Denison's hardware store. He brought in Moore as a consulting
engineer. Fred Ferguson, Pa's cousin, sold most of the gravel used
in the project, and it must have been the best gravel in the world
because it was certainly the most expensive.
Local leaders, as local leaders will do when talking about local projects,
declared the invisible track highway the safest road in the world
- the world! One of the few people who ever braved the road
had a different take: "Once you got on, you had to stay on. You couldn't
get off anywhere except at the end. It was the stupidest design you
ever saw. It was crazy."
To these and other criticisms, Moore claimed that those "complaining
never want to run less than 40 miles per hour."
The first (and last) five miles of the highway ended up costing somewhere
around $250,000, or about $3 million in today's dollars. The state,
not the county, spent most of that money. A house committee investigating
the peculiar highway and the finances surrounding it called Moore
to testify. Committee attorney Richard Critz asked Moore if he knew
of another case where the state spent so much money without the county
putting up its proper share. And why would the state spend so much
money in Bell County,
home of the governor?
"I think I can answer that," Moore replied. "James Ferguson told me
that, if the experimental road was a failure, he could explain it
easier to the home people."
Well, he couldn't. Ferguson's deep attraction to larceny and his contempt
for the rule of law led to impeachment early in his second term. The
impeachment, which included seven charges of misapplication of public
funds, prohibited him from holding public office, but Pa steered his
wife, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, into the governor's mansion a few years
By the time the Ferguson rode off into the political sunset, the state
hand abandoned the Invisible Highway project but didn't repair or
otherwise gussy up the old road for six years, instead leaving it
as a testament to the Fergusons' foolishness and greed. Eventually,
the Invisible Track Highway became truly invisible as the state paved
it over without any tracks, visible or otherwise, and built a new
bridge over the Leon River.