Bankhead Highway

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Bankhead Highway marker.svg

Bankhead Highway
Route information
Existed: 1916 – present
Major junctions
West end: Corners of 5th and Broadway in San Diego, CA
East end: Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C.
Highway system
Auto Trails

The Bankhead Highway was a United States cross-country automobile highway connecting Washington, D.C. and San Diego. It was part of the National Auto Trail system. The road was named for Alabama politician John Hollis Bankhead, a leader in the early national road building movement. In later years, several stretches of US-78 in northwest Alabama were renamed for Bankhead's son, former U.S. Representative and Speaker of the House William B. Bankhead.

Route description[edit]

As was common with early auto trails, the Bankhead Highway had several different routes. The main and branch routes below are considered to be the primary configurations of the highway.

District of Columbia[edit]

The route began in Washington, D.C., following US 1 into Virginia.


In Virginia, the route followed US 1 through Fredericksburg and Richmond. At South Hill the route turned southwest onto US 58 and followed it to Clarksville, where it turned south onto US 15 and continued into North Carolina.

North Carolina[edit]

The route entered North Carolina on US 15 and followed it into Durham before taking the route of US 70 to Greensboro. At Greensboro, the Bankhead Highway took the current route of US 29 through Charlotte.

South Carolina[edit]

US 29 passes through the South Carolina city of Greenville on Wade Hampton Boulevard and Church Street.


U.S. 29 traverses the northern half of Georgia, through Athens, Lawrenceville, Decatur and into Atlanta. While US 29 now follows the route of University Parkway for much of the distance between Athens and Lawrenceville, the Bankhead route followed the present Business US 29 (Winder Hwy. out of Lawrenceville) and Atlanta Hwy. out of Athens) and went through the smaller towns of Bogart and Winder. Newer alignments in Atlanta followed U.S. Highways 29, 78 and 278, and Ponce de Leon Avenue from Decatur to North Avenue in Midtown and turning South on Northside Dr. to the intersection with Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy. A much older alignment veered off of Lawrenceville Hwy. after entering into Decatur, onto Church Street and following it until it intersected College Ave. The route then headed West and following DeKalb Ave. into Atlanta. Entering in Atlanta at Moreland Ave. where its name changes to Decatur St. the route continued to the intersection with Peachtree St., where the route changes name Marietta St. Following Marietta St. after crossing US Hwy 78/278/29, it veered off to the West where a bridge (now closed but still standing) carried the highway over Southern Railway tracks to the intersection of Northside Dr. and present Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. From the intersection of Northside Dr. and Donald Lee Holowell West, the route roughly followed US 78 to the Alabama State Line.

Many Georgia cities along the original route have streets named Bankhead which mark the actual route. One notable exception to this rule is the Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in the Bankhead neighborhood of Atlanta (from which the "Bankhead Bounce" originated). This section was renamed in an effort to revitalize, or mask the name stigma attached to this high-crime section of the city. The same was done in the adjacent section west of the Chattahoochee River by the Cobb county commission, which named it Veterans Memorial Parkway through Mableton and Austell. Georgia 5 also runs concurrent with it through Austell.


From Atlanta, the highway took the route of US 78 westward through Birmingham, Alabama, and into Mississippi.


The route, now US 78, cut through northeastern Mississippi including the cities of New Albany and Tupelo. The main road through downtown New Albany is called Bankhead Street.


Bankhead's route entered Tennessee at Memphis. In Memphis, the route left US 78 and followed US 70 into Arkansas.


The route passed through Little Rock on US 70. At Hot Springs, Arkansas, travelers were given two options (alternate routes were common on auto trails).

Main Route

The main route followed Arkansas State Route 7 to US 67 at Arkadelphia, and followed US 67 to Texarkana and into Texas.

Branch Route

The branch route followed US 70 from Hot Springs to Oklahoma.


Branch Route

The branch route followed US 70 to US 81 to Oklahoma State Route 7 in rural Oklahoma. State Route 7 connects to US 62 at Lawton, and the route followed US 62 to Texas.


On Friday, June 19, 2009, the Bankhead Highway was designated a Texas Historic Highway as part of the new state Historic Roads and Highways Program. This measure was introduced by State Rep. Carol Kent (District 102, Dallas County). The purpose of this designation is to supplement the Texas Historical Commission's existing "heritage tourism" programs and to increase interest in the Bankhead Highway.

"The Bankhead is a vital part of our state's history, and it is in danger of being forgotten," said Rep. Kent who recently completed her first legislative session representing North Dallas, Richardson, and Garland. "With the passage of this law, we can celebrate this part of our Texas heritage, and also promote the Bankhead as a tool for economic development in towns and cities across our state."

Main Route

The main route passed through Texarkana, Texas, and Garland, Texas before arriving at Fort Worth, where it turned onto former U.S. Highway 80. The route, like the former US 80, went through the smaller cities of Midland and Odessa before rejoining the branch route at El Paso. The route from Fort Worth to El Paso is now followed by Interstates 20 and 10.

Branch Route (also includes New Mexico)

The branch route entered Texas on US 62, then turned onto US 70 at Paducah. The route went through eastern New Mexico, first at Clovis then through Roswell before turning onto US 54 at Alamogordo and reentering Texas at El Paso. The branch route rejoined the main one at El Paso.

Third Route

A third route connected the main and branch routes in western Texas and eastern New Mexico. This route followed the current US 84 to Post, Texas, where it turned westward on the current US 380 to Roswell, New Mexico.

New Mexico[edit]

(For details on the branch routes in New Mexico, see branch route and third route entries for Texas/New Mexico).

In New Mexico, the Bankhead route followed the former US 80, now Interstate 10 through Las Cruces and into Arizona.


In Arizona, the route continued to Tucson, where it took Arizona State Route 77 to Arizona State Route 79, which it followed north to U.S. Highway 60, then west to Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix on Van Buren Street. The route followed the former US 80 through smaller towns on the west side of Phoenix and south to Gila Bend. US 80 followed closely the route of Interstate 8 into California.


The route followed the former US 80 in California through El Centro, El Cajon, La Mesa and into San Diego, the highway's western terminus. This section of the Bankhead Highway is now a California state historic highway.[1]


The Bankhead Highway was marked by a pole marker that was white with yellow stripes on the top and bottom and the letters "BH" in black.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ California State Legislature. "ACR 123 Assembly Concurrent Resolution." Official California Legislative Information. Legislative Council of California. August 16, 2006. Retrieved March 23, 2008.

External links[edit]