still get their kicks remembering old Route
66, but Route 66 plus one – U.S. 67 – is still kicking.
It may not be the Mother Road, but U.S. 67 stretches 1,560 miles across
five states, connecting Iowa
to Mexico. The
highway extends through Texas, Arkansas,
to the intersection of U.S. 52 in Sabula, Iowa, population 670. Six
hundred thirty-seven miles of U.S. 67 are in Texas,
from Presidio to
One of 45 U.S. highways in Texas, work
on the Lone Star segment of U.S. 67 started in 1927 when road builders
began an extension from Fredericktown, MO. to Dallas.
In 1930, the Highway Department (now the Texas Department of Transportation)
began developing the highway from Dallas
to Presidio. The
highway reached Brownwood
in 1932 and had been completed to the border by 1934.
doesn’t mean that U.S. 67 was a seamless ribbon of pavement from Brownwood
to the Big
Bend, or from Big D to Little B when it first opened. A 1932 map
shows the south-bound pavement out of Brownwood
ended just past Talpa,
the rest of the way to San
Angelo being what the map’s legend referred to as a second-class
road, “gravel or graded all weather.” The pavement picked up again
at Ballinger and
continued through San
West of San
Angelo, the pavement played out about halfway to Mertzon,
with no more hard surface until the Upton County line. Then a motorist
had smooth driving to McCamey.
After that, except for a brief stretch near Alpine,
U.S. 67 ran unpaved all the way to Presidio.
North from Brownwood,
the pavement ended at the Comanche
County line and didn’t resume until Hood
County. From tiny Bluff
Dale, drivers had pavement all the way to Texarkana.
When engineers first began designing a state highway system, some
of the routes they selected for pavement had already evolved from
animal trails to wagon roads to graded roads. In other instances,
engineers planned roadways paralleling railroads. Much of U.S. 67
ran adjacent to the railroad tracks from Dallas
Between Santa Anna
and Coleman, the highway
parallels the old Orient Railway, which came from Kansas City to Presidio
Angelo and Fort
Stockton in 1911.
the 1930s, Texas had a respectable highway system, but traveling still
was not as easy as it is today. The speed limit had been set at 45
miles an hour in 1928, and held there until 1941, when the Highway
Commission bumped it to 60. That lasted until 1942, when war time
shortages forced a reduction to 35 miles an hour to conserve gasoline,
oil and rubber.
At the end of the war, the speed limit went back to 60, where it stayed
until July 1963. That summer it went to 70, the limit until another
gasoline shortage in 1974 resulted in a slowdown to 55 that held until
the speed went back to the present 70.
long Texas highway has seen a couple of Golden Eras. The first came
during the latter heyday of Big
and McCamey, with
oilfield activity at its peak. The second U.S. 67 boom came during
World War II,
Camp Bowie served as a major Army training facility. GIs who did not
by train came in on U.S. 67.
After the war, a group of transportation and tourism proponents organized
the Big Bend Trail Association, a non-profit corporation headed by
Claude W. Meadows of San
Angelo. The group touted U.S. 67 as the prime route to the new
Big Bend National Park, and advocated a continuation of the highway
to Chihuahua City in Mexico and from there on to South America.
“Along the route of U.S. 67,” the old Texas Parade Magazine said in
1952, “is a loyal and devout group of representative business men
who believe in their hearts that the Big Bend Trail is one of the
greatest boons that has come…to the Southwest.”
No matter the beliefs of businessmen, with the completion of Interstate
10 in the early 1970s, traffic on U.S. 67 west of San
Angelo dropped considerably. The decline of oilfield activity
between Big Lake
and McCamey brought
a further reduction in traffic, particularly from San
Angelo to the I-10 intersection outside Fort
The Big Bend Trail Association eventually changed it name to the U.S.
Highway 67 Association and continued to promote the route, publishing
a four-color brochure touting U.S. 67 as “The Big Bend Trail” and
“Family Vacation Route.”
Despite the best efforts of the now-defunct organization, U.S. 67
never received the kind of press Route
66 enjoyed. But unlike Route
66, replaced by I-40 in July 1984, U.S. 67 is not likely to become
a ghost road, though in West
Texas you don’t have to deal with much traffic.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" August
6 , 2009 column