The Bankhead Highway project entailed the preparation of a historic context of Texas' historic highway systems and the completion of a historic resources survey along the Bankhead Highway. Based on consultations among Hardy-Heck-Moore, Inc. (HHM), the THC, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the historic context traced the evolution of highways in Texas from the period of early settlement ca. 1700 through the completion of the modern interstate highway system ca. 1980. To break this large time span into more meaningful units, the project team subdivided the context into smaller, more discrete periods based on important historical trends and events that greatly influenced the evolution of the state's highway system. The project team placed an emphasis on the period from ca. 1800 through ca. 1932, which witnessed the emergence of a complex network of county roads, named highways, and state highways for vehicles with internal combustion engines. Within each of the defined time periods, the context includes a statewide overview that examines some of the broad trends and social history related to highway development at that time, as well as description of the evolution of the routes associated with early named highways in Texas.
For the purposes of this study and funding constraints, the project team limited the investigations to the following five routes: Bankhead Highway, Meridian Highway, North Texas Highway, East Texas Highway, and Old Spanish Trail/Southern National Highway. These routes provide a cross-section of the types of early highways constructed in Texas and take into account the relative significance of these routes as inter- and intra-state transportation corridors, geographic distribution within the state, and the likelihood of extant road-related resources along the highways. Additional project deliverables included discussion of the property types associated with historic Texas highways, along with a National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) evaluation methodology and registration requirements. The project subsequently included field investigations to identify, document, and evaluate historic resources along the Bankhead Highway from Texarkana to El Paso.