by Mike Cox
International Pavedway never existed anywhere but on a map, but most
Texans have traveled it many times.
In 1917, when the Washington-based American Highway Association issued
the sixth edition of its yearbook, the Texas Legislature had just
passed a bill creating a state highway department. But the agency
had not yet been organized, and Texas had fewer than a thousand miles
of paved roads. The rest of the state’s 10,000 or so miles of roadway
amounted to gravel-surfaced or worse.
Even so, the transition from horse to horseless carriage had begun
and Texas needed paved roads. In Texas and across the nation, the
business community saw that need and began lobbying for what would
come to be called infrastructure. Numerous road-boosting associations
came into being to press federal and state government for specific
“For a number of years,” the 1917 yearbook explained, “associations
have been increasing rapidly in number which have for their object
the improvement of highways ranging in length from roads connecting
adjacent county seats to transcontinental routes.”
The roads were to be marked “more or less fully by colored bands on
poles, fences and bridges, so that the traveler can follow them easily.”
of those association-promoted routes was the International Pavedway.
As envisioned, the IP would stretch 1,960 miles, cutting through 7
states and 88 counties. Beginning at Detroit, it would end at the
international bridge in Laredo.
Entering the Lone Star state at Texarkana,
the IP would proceed south of the Red River through Clarksville,
Paris, and Sherman.
the roadway would have turned south to Dallas
and then west to Fort
Worth. Down from Cowtown, the proposed road continued to Cleburne,
Spring and Waco.
the IP was to have extended to Austin,
San Antonio and stop
Today, of course, the Brazos-to-Rio Grande segment of this route is
Interstate 35, the busiest transportation corridor in Texas.
Eventually, most of the dots along the proposed IP got connected by
paved roads, but the 1917 route never became a single, named highway.
major roadway envisioned back in 1917 was the Jefferson Davis Memorial
Highway, a coast-to-coast route covering 3,780 miles between Miami
In Texas, the roadway would have gone
and Houston. At Victoria,
the highway would have divided, with one route going down the coast
in the Rio Grande Valley and up the river through Laredo
Pass to Del Rio.
The other leg of the roadway honoring the first and only president
of the Confederate States of America would have headed west via San
Antonio to Del
From Del Rio, the
highway would have split again, one route hugging the river all the
way to El Paso
(a road that still doesn’t exist as a complete route) and the other
Stockton and Marfa.
At El Paso,
the highway would have gone to the now-extinct town of Alfalfa Station
association-promoted corridors through Texas
included the Jefferson Highway (not to be confused with the Jefferson
Davis Memorial Highway), the Meridian Road, the Ozark Trail and the
Southern National Highway.
Transportation boomers envisioned the Jefferson Highway as stretching
from Winnipeg, Canada to New
Orleans. In Texas, it would have
cut through Denison,
Springs, Gilmer, Longview
and Marshall before crossing
The Meridian Road was seen as connecting Manitoba, Canada to Galveston,
via Fargo, ND, Columbus, O, Wichita, KS, Fort
Worth and Houston.
Much of the Texas portion of this route is today I-45.
Running from St. Louis to Albuquerque,
the Ozark Trail would have cut across the Panhandle
essentially tracking what would become Route 66 and eventually I-40.
The Southern National Highway would have connected Washington,
D.C. with San
Diego. The roadway would have gone through Dallas
and Fort Worth and
then across West Texas
to Roswell, N.M. and back into Texas
to El Paso.
Much of this route eventually became I-20.
Associations continue to play a role in promoting transportation improvements,
but the notion of using names instead of numbers for interstate highways
went the way of the Model A.
© Mike Cox - "Texas Tales"
21, 2008 column
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