Dixie Overland & Bankhead Highway

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1930s architecture greets travelers on the old highway as the Dixie Overland merges with the Bankhead Highway in Dallas.

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Highway 80 is not the mythical road that US 66 is, and it hasn't been dubbed anything interesting like the "Lincoln Highway," which is what travelers call US 50. Nor does it go through some of the first settlements in the United States, from Florida to Maine, like US 1 does. Still, US 80 - formerly known as the Dixie Overland Highway that merges with the Bankhead Highway in Dallas and westward -  is cool.

Running from Tybee Island, Georgia to San Diego, California, this highway spans the southern portion of the United States, passing through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona along the way. If you took it from end to end, you'd travel almost 2,500 miles, and according to Google Maps, it would take you at least 3 days.

For this article, I won't be taking you all the way through. Concentrating on the areas around the Red River, let's instead take a road trip from Louisiana to parts of western Texas on this old highway. I'm also going to show you the high-lights of the trip (meaning "the places for which I have photos").

Like US 66, US 80 has been decommissioned west of Mesquite, Texas. It has merged in many places with Interstates 20 and 30 (further west, with Interstate 10). Mostly, though, the interstate can be avoided through careful planning!

In Louisiana and East Texas, US 80 is clearly marked. In Shreveport, it is named Texas Street, and in East Texas, you'll pass Marshall and other cities and towns on a well-maintained federal highway. But driving the route through Dallas is a bit trickier.

Dallas
Once in Dallas, you'll be following a lot of roads that were once US 80. Since the "official" US 80 consists now of Interstate 30, I'm consulting an old Conoco Map for your jaunt through Dallas and later, Fort Worth. Today, the old US 80 route through Dallas is unmarked.

Keep on driving on Samuell Boulevard (which used to be called East Pike during US 80's hey-day) until you reach East Grand Avenue/ TX 78. To follow old US 80, turn left onto Grand Avenue/ TX 78 until it meets Haskell Avenue. You'll be in the heart of the Fair Park neighborhood on this route, and you'll catch glimpses of the Cotton Bowl as you mosey on towards downtown. As soon as you turn onto TX 78, you'll be on the Bankhead Highway, an old route that linked Washington D.C. to San Diego.

Turn right onto Haskell and follow it west. Quite quickly, Haskell will become Stonewall Street, as Haskell splits into two one-ways. At the intersection of Stonewall and Parry Avenue, turn left. Parry Avenue will take you right by Fair Park!

After you pass over the DART railroad tracks, turn right onto Commerce Street and follow it to downtown Dallas. At the intersection of Parry and Commerce is a grand old fire station, which has been converted into a museum.

As you drive up Commerce, you'll have to jog onto Main Street or Elm Street to your right - Commerce becomes a one way street in the opposite direction. To get to Main or Elm Streets, take Exposition to the right and then turn left onto either Main or Elm (both will take you through downtown). Commerce Street is the original US 80.

Commerce, Main, and Elm Streets form the center roads for downtown Dallas. All three merge on the west side of downtown into Commerce Street as they pass through the infamous "Triple Underpass." If you drive down Elm Street, you'll see the "X" on the road that marks where John F. Kennedy was shot.

After they merge, Commerce Street becomes a two-way road. This portion of Commerce street is a newer alignment of US 80. You can follow this road into Oak Cliff.

If you want to follow the original US 80, you'll have to turn left onto Houston Street at Dealy Plaza. Follow Houston Street as it curves onto the Houston Street Viaduct, considered the longest concrete bridge in the world (and who'd want to dispute that!)

Interesting side note: the Trinity River used to flow where the Triple Underpass now stands. The river was straightened through a series of dikes during the 1930s and 1940s. This project was considered one of the most expensive and ambitious civic undertakings in US history. Now, of course, Dallas would like to reclaim the Trinity, which has become nothing more than a ditch that occasionally floods.

Oak Cliff
If you took the older alignment from Houston Street, your path will lead you through the heart of Oak Cliff and past the Texas Theater, where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after his event-filled day in November of 1963. In Oak Cliff, US 80 is Davis Street.

If you decided to follow the newer route on Commerce Street, make sure to veer left onto Fort Worth Avenue, or what locals still call the "Old Fort Worth Turn Pike." Fort Worth Avenue is a great road to take when you want to ponder the past, or when traffic on Interstate 30 gets so bogged down you need an alternate route. Either way, it's a great road. You'll see lots of old motels, vintage diners, and even Clyde Barrow's Grave at the Western Heights Cemetery, located on Fort Worth Avenue between Navarro and Neal Streets.

Fort Worth Avenue will merge with Davis Street just west of Westmoreland Road, and you'll once again follow a single US 80, which is now designated as TX 180.

Grand Prairie
Once you pass over Loop 12, you'll be in Grand Prairie. There's not much to see here, except some old drive-ins and several flea markets. TX 180/ US 80 becomes Main Street in Grand Prairie.

Arlington
Continue west on TX 180 / US 80. After the intersection with Great Southwest Parkway, you'll be in Arlington, the third largest city in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metro-area. Long before you get to Arlington, however, you'll be able to see its newest landmark: the brand new Dallas Cowboys Stadium, a.k.a. the Jerry-dome. It is HUGE. It also occupies an older section of town that had been condemned through eminent domain to make way for the stadium. The many diners, motels, and older stores from the old neighborhood that still ring the stadium will
most likely go away soon, as developers see opportunity knocking.

In Arlington, TX 180/ US 80 becomes Division Street. This a cool old road that is hugged by down-home restaurants, dance halls, and local dives. The large campus of the University of Texas at Arlington sits behind this street, next to the rather nondescript downtown.

West of downtown is one of my favorite spots on this jaunt: Arlington Baptist College. But not because I'm religious - it's because the campus, built of sand stone and situated on one of the highest hills in Tarrant County, sits on the site of a former speakeasy, the Top of the Hill Terrace. Drinkers and gamblers would revel in an underground tavern, but would flee through an underground tunnel if the police
showed up.

Fort Worth
As you come down this way, you'll pass through Handley, a small railroad town that maintains its identity separate from Fort Worth.

In Fort Worth, TX 180/US 80 becomes Lancaster Avenue. It doesn't go through the best of neighborhoods - several homeless missions line the road on both sides. When you pass under the Interstates near downtown, you'll see why Lancaster Avenue had a more seedy side to it... it used to empty right into the heart of the notorious Hell's Half Acre. Alas, the convention center has replaced this storied neighborhood.

According to my trusty Conoco Map, the old US 80 route veered off from Lancaster Avenue and onto Main Street. Then, it continued west on 7th Street, and then followed Camp Bowie Boulevard to the southwest. You can jog this path, or just stay on Lancaster Avenue until it intersects with Camp Bowie Boulevard - the choice is yours. Both ways are interesting.

Camp Bowie Boulevard (also US 377) is Fort Worth's favorite road. It's bumpy, too, as some of its sections remain paved with brick. The Modern Art Museum, the Kimball, and the Museum of Science and History are located off of Camp Bowie, and many stores, restaurants, and theaters line the road, too. The neighborhood surrounding Camp Bowie is quite eclectic, ranging from old apartment buildings to 1950s suburban homes to fancier digs. Camp Bowie Boulevard is the reason why so many people fall in love with Fort Worth.

 

Once Camp Bowie Boulevard passes underneath Interstate 30, it becomes the current US 80. You'll want to follow the signs for US 80 - that means, veer right to stay on Camp Bowie Boulevard, and follow the street as it becomes Palo Pinto Drive. You'll eventually have to merge with Interstate 30 to go west.

Weatherford
Exit the interstate onto TX 180/ Fort Worth Highway in Weatherford and continue on US 180 - the old Bankhead Highway - westward. Alogn the way, you will find some of the old alignments from the 1920s, which I've detailed in the images below.

US 80 is one of the grande-dames of the American highway system. While it still exists as a supplemental road to Interstates 30, 20, and 10, traces and swaths of the old road - and the automobile culture that went along with it - still remain. Like Route 66 and US 50 have done for their states, this highway has defined the Red River Valley, and I hope that one day, just like its sisters, its importance will be recognized.

 

Arcadia_US_80_Bridge_2-982x744
Arcadia_US_80_Bridge_2-982x744

Along the highway near Arcadia is this concrete bridge that spans over the Illinois Central's tracks, with US 80 immortalized in the cement.

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arcadia_depot_museum_lighter-981x747

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Ranger_bankhead_3-982x1288
Ranger_bankhead_3-982x1288

Beyond Ranger, Texas, US 80 parallels Interstate 20. Much older alignments are still drivable, like this bricked section west of downtown Ranger.

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Arcadia_US_80_Bridge_2-982x744
Arcadia_US_80_Bridge_2-982x744

Along the highway near Arcadia is this concrete bridge that spans over the Illinois Central's tracks, with US 80 immortalized in the cement.

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