- Gen. Roy Stone, the first
director of the U.S. Office of Road Inquiry, told a Houston
audience in 1895 that Texas had made less progress toward good roads
than any other state. More than
a century later, Texas’ road system is considered one of the best in
- Texas Good Roads Association was founded in 1903, but
folded in 1907. It was reborn
in 1910, and heavily influenced the legislation that formed Texas'
- Congress passed the Federal
Highway Bill in 1916 to allocate federal funds to States for road
construction. Only those with a
state highway department could receive federal money for roads, so
Texas was ineligible.
- When Governor James E.
Ferguson signed the bill creating the Texas Highway Department, Texas
became the 45th state to set up a highway department.
- The Texas Highway
Department was created on April 4, 1917, by the 35th Legislature. The department began operation on
June 4, 1917, with the first meeting of the Texas Highway Commission,
in the corner of the House Chamber in the unairconditioned
Texas Capitol. The first order
of business was a motion from Commissioner H. C. Odle
that George A. Duren be appointed state
highway engineer. The next
motion was for adjournment. After
all, with no highways, there really wasn't much business. A few weeks later, the commission
designated a highway system comprising 8,865 miles of "improved
- The first construction
under the supervision of the Highway Department was a 20-mile
section of untreated flexible base 16 feet wide between Falfurrias and
Encino. Work began In October
1918 and completed in June 1920. The corridor
is in the same location as present day U. S. 281.
- All highways in Texas were
re-designated by Minute Order 16701 in the General Re-designation
of Texas Highways on September 26, 1939.
- Congress passed a new Federal
Aid to Roads Act in 1921, requiring states to have exclusive
control in road design, construction, and maintenance.
- The Highway Department
assumed responsibility for highway maintenance on January 1, 1924. Before that maintenance was a concern of each
county. During the first year, costs reached
- In 1925, the Supreme Court
ruled that ownership of roads is vested in the states.
- The U. S. Bureau of
Public Roads shut off all federal highway aid to Texas in 1925
because of the poor state of highway maintenance.
- In 1925, the 39th
Legislature gave the department authority to acquire land for
highways by purchase or condemnation.
- In 1928, the
department had 18,000 highway miles: 96 miles of concrete, 1,060 miles
of asphalt, 5,000 miles of gravel, shell, or stone, and 10,000 miles
of just plain dirt.
- The department spent $495
per mile for maintenance in 1928, most of it for work to satisfy
the U. S. Bureau of Public Roads to regain federal aid.
- Highway crews started erecting
signs and marking pavements in 1929 in accordance with standards
set by the states through the American Association of State Highway
Officials (AASHTO). During this
first year, Texas crews erected more than 100,000 signs.
- From 1929 to 1930, the
department built 1,773 miles of new highways and improved 629
miles of existing roads.
- By 1934, the custom of
delaying the mowing of right of way until the flowering season was
over and annual wildflowers reseeded themselves had been instituted.
- More than 60,000 pounds
of wildflower seed are planted along Texas highways every year.
- From 1934-1936, employees
planted 300,000 trees and 500,000 shrubs, which included digging
the hole, removing the tree from its original location, plus planting,
mulching and watering. This
marked the beginning of the department's beautification project.
- The Baytown Tunnel
under the Houston Ship Channel opened September 22, 1953, replacing
the Morgan’s Point Ferry. Forty-two years later, it was
replaced by the Fred Hartman Bridge.
- In 1956, the Highway Revenue
Act increased gas and other motor vehicle taxes and created the Highway
Trust Fund by earmarking gas, tire, and truck/bus weight tax solely
for highway construction and maintenance.
- On June 19, 1975, Gov.
Dolph Briscoe signed a bill that merged Texas Mass
Transportation Commission and the highway department to form the State
Department of Highways and Public Transportation.
- The State Department of
Highways and Public Transportation was renamed the Texas Department
of Transportation in 1991.
- Texas has over 60 miles of toll
roads. Texas opened its
first toll highway in 1957, connecting Dallas and Fort Worth.
- TxDOT maintains more than 79,000
miles of farm-to-market, ranch-to-market, state, U.S. and interstate highways.
That's more roadway than any other
- There are approximately 25,678,000
square feet of signs and
45,552 reference markers along Texas roadways.
- There are 100 safety rest areas, numerous
picnic areas, and 12 Travel Information Centers
- The department’s 10
ferries carried approximately 4,100,000 vehicles in fiscal 1997.
- The exact center of Texas
is located approximately 20 miles north of Brady in McCulloch
For more information, you can go to the Statistical
Roadway Information page.
FACTS COURTESY OF TRANSPORTATION NEWS, OCTOBER 1997, TEXAS HIGHWAY
MAGAZINE, SEPTEMBER 1967, AND TRANSPORTATION PLANNING & PROGRAMMING