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The early 20th century development of the automobile led to major changes in road systems throughout the U. S. The 1916 Federal Aid Road Act, which supplied matching funds to states for the upgrade of roads, was sponsored by Alabama Senator John H. Bankhead and required that states establish a highway department in order to receive federal disbursements; the act led to the creation of the Texas Highway Department in 1917. The Bankhead Highway, America’s second east-to-west transcontinental highway, was soon routed from Washington, D. C., to San Diego.

The Bankhead Highway’s route through Texas included the major cities of Texarkana, Dallas, Fort Worth and El Paso and passed through the Dallas County town of Garland. In 1919, Texas Bankhead Highway Association Secretary Arthur P. Dyer noted that Garland was the only town on the Texas route which had voluntarily organized and gone to work without asking for outside help. The people of Garland took advantage of the highway’s potential for economic impact. Auto repair shops, restaurants and service stations were built along Main Street—the highway’s route through Garland—which was soon paved and curbed. Although the Bankhead Highway was officially designated as Texas Highway 1 in 1917, it also retained the official Bankhead name until 1926, when it became part of U. S. Highway 67. However, the old name remained attached to the Garland segment until the early 1950s.

The road’s importance diminished beginning in the 1950s as most drivers opted to use the wider, safer and faster new interstate system, but the Bankhead Highway is remembered for its significant place in the history of scores of Texas towns such as Garland.