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Glossary | Counties of Texas | Designation | Search the Texas Highway Designation Files | Texas Memorial Highways | PASS Routes

  • 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 the world.
  • 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' highway department.
  • 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 roadways".
  • 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 $4.5 million.
  • 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 state.
  • 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 in Texas.
  • 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 County.

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 DIVISION

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