Heritage, Summer 2003 Page: 12
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Above: Stagecoach travel was dangerous as depicted in this drawing, courtesy of the Institute of Texan Cultures; opposite: 1936
map of the Texas transportation system; provided by the University of Texas at Arlington. Below: The Trans Texas Corridor project
is designed to move people and goods faster and more safely. Courtesy of the Texas Department of Transportation.
and we must all lay our hands to it as a great and mighty
work of national interest and concernment, divested of
everything sectional or local in its character. If its accomplishment
is to be secured, it must be done with united
hands and united hearts, with reference alone to the public
good and its accomplishment on the most reasonable terms
that the national resources will justify."
The Republic of Texas had granted its first charter to a
railroad in December 1836, but no company succeeded in
laying tracks during Texas' near decade of sovereignty. Not
until 1853, eight years after statehood, did any iron go
down. Significant railroad construction did not begin in
Texas until the Reconstruction period following the Civil
With completion of the Texas and Pacific line in 1881,
the state had its first high-speed transportation corridorhigh
speed being a relative term. Back then, steam engines
running full throttle pulled cars about 40 miles an hour. Still,
that was faster than anyone had ever moved across Texas,
and speeds soon increased with development of more pow
erful engines. The new rail system, as transportation always
has done, extended settlement and created jobs. Abilene,
Sweetwater, Big Spring, Midland-Odessa, and Pecos all trace
their beginnings to this railroad line.
Rail remained the principal mode of long-distance travel
in Texas until the development in the early 1900s of inexpensive
and reliable motor vehicles. That brought about the
need for paved roads.
The state got into the business of designing and building
highways in 1917 with the creation of the Highway
Department, now the Texas Department of Transportation.
Within a year, Texas' fledgling transportation agency had
prepared a map of a proposed statewide highway system.
Many of the state's roadways followed or were close to the
old trails used by Native Americans and the other cultures
that came after them.
As Texas began development of its first paved roadway
system, the Daughters of the American Revolution undertook
the first project to recognize the history of transportation
in the state. Relying on a survey made in 1915
HERITAGE W SUMMER 2003
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2003, periodical, Summer 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45377/m1/12/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.