|Existed:||1916 – present|
|West end:||Corners of 5th and Broadway in San Diego, CA|
|East end:||Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C.|
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The branch route followed US 70 from Hot Springs to Oklahoma.
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."
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.
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.
(For details on the branch routes in New Mexico, see branch route and third route entries for Texas/New Mexico).
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.
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.
- California State Legislature. "ACR 123 Assembly Concurrent Resolution." Official California Legislative Information. Legislative Council of California. August 16, 2006. Retrieved March 23, 2008.