The route's numerical designation was previously assigned to a road in the Texas Panhandle during the 1930s. An extension to the current route potentially doubling its length was considered and rejected in recent years.
SH 178 was previously proposed by 1933 as a connector route between the cities of Hartley and Dumas in Hartley and Moore counties in the Texas Panhandle. By 1936, the Hartley County portion had been completed with the Moore County portion following by 1940. The route had been reassigned as US 87 during the 1939 general redescription of the state highway system.
SH 178 is a major urban thoroughfare on El Paso's west side that is locally known as Artcraft Rd. The route is a four to six-lane divided highway beginning at NM 136, or Pete V. Domenici International Highway, at the New Mexico state line between El Paso and Santa Teresa in Doña Ana County, NM. The route proceeds east along Artcraft Rd. crossing the Rio Grande shortly before intersecting SH 20 at Doniphan Dr. The route then continues east ending at the combined I-10, US 85, and US 180 freeway where the roadway continues eastward as Paso del Norte Rd.