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
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
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.
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.
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
Santa Anna and Coleman,
the highway parallels the old Orient Railway, which came from Kansas City to Presidio
via San Angelo
and Fort Stockton
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 Lake,
Rankin and McCamey,
with oilfield activity at its peak. The second U.S. 67 boom came during World
War II, when Brownwood’s
Camp Bowie served as a major Army training facility. GIs who did not reach Brownwood
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
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
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
6 , 2009 column
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