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The history of US Route 80 in El Paso


The city of El Paso is the largest community in western Texas and is historically tied to the corridor of US Route 80.  Mainline US Route 80 beginning in 1926 was aligned westbound through El Paso via Alameda Avenue, Texas Avenue and Mesa Street.  During the late 1930s US Route 80A was designated as an alternate routing west of downtown El Paso over what was constructed as Texas State Highway Loop 1.  US Route 80A would be expanded during 1950 following the completion of Paisano Drive but would ultimately be deleted in 1964.  Mainline US Route 80 would move to a multiplex of Interstate 10 through El Paso beginning in 1969.  The original surface routing of US Route 80 in El Paso would subsequently be repurposed as part of Texas State Highway 20.  US Route 80 would continue to persist in El Paso until the highway was truncated to Dallas in 1991.  



Part 1; the history of US Route 80 in El Paso

The origin of El Paso dates back to 1680 when it became the seat of governance of Spanish ruled New Mexico following the Pueblo Revolt.  El Paso would remain the seat of the New Mexico government until 1692 when the Spanish recaptured Santa Fe.  The original scope of the village of El Paso comprised both the modern American city and what is now Ciudad Juarez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.  

Following the Texas Revolution, El Paso was claimed by the Mexican government and Republic of Texas.  Following the Mexican-American War and signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo (in 1848) the lands north of the Rio Grande effectively became part of the United States.  The modern border of Texas and Mexico was officially established during the Compromise of 1850.

El Paso north of the Rio Grande River had been renamed "Franklin" in 1849 following the Mexican-American War.  A military post known as "El Paso del Norte" was established north of the Rio Grande River also during 1849.  El Paso County would be established during 1850 with San Elizario being selected as the first seat.  Franklin would be redesignated as "El Paso" by the Post Office during 1852 the town site would be formally plotted in 1859.

El Paso would incorporate as a city during 1873.  Ysleta would attempt successfully to obtain the El Paso County from San Elizario during an 1873 vote and would incorporate as a city during 1880.  Ysleta would be bypassed to the north by the Southern Pacific Railroad during 1881 and would lose the county seat to El Paso during 1883.  The Mexican city of El Paso would rename to Ciudad Juarez during 1888.  

During the Auto Trail era El Paso would be located along Texas State Highway 1 which was known as the Texarkana-Dallas-Fort Worth-El Paso Highway.  El Paso can be seen as part of the Bankhead Highway, Central Texas Highway, F.F.F. Highway, and Old Spanish Trail on the 1924 Rand McNally Auto Trails Map of Texas.  




The American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) commissioned the US Route System on November 11, 1926.  The most significant east/west US Route in Texas designated was US Route 80.  The initial alignment of US Route 80 had it pass through El Paso westbound from Ysleta via Alameda Avenue, Texas Avenue and Mesa Street.  US Route 80 would pass through the heart of downtown El Paso past San Jacinto Plaza.  

The initial descriptions of the US Route System in Texas (including US Route 80) dated November 11, 1926, can be viewed below.



US Route 80 can be seen passing through El Paso on the 1927 National Map Company Map of Texas


US Route 366 as originally configured would terminate at the corner of Mesa Street and Texas Avenue.  US Route 366 was carried into downtown El Paso via multiplex of US Route 80 on Texas Avenue originating at Piedras Street.  The alignment of US Route 366 in Texas would be absorbed by US Route 70 when the highway was truncated from Arizona in 1931.  Also, during 1931 US Route 62 would be extended to El Paso and would multiplex US Route 80/US Route 70 from Piedras Street west on Texas Avenue to a terminus at Mesa Street. 

US Route 80 through El Paso can be seen in detail on the 1937 Texas Highway Department Map (courtesy usends.com).  US Route 80 can be seen multiplexing US Route 54 and US Route 62 on Texas Avenue west from Piedras Street.  US Route 54 was extended to El Paso in 1934 when US Route 70 was extended to Arizona.  


US Route 80A can be seen for the first time on the 1939 Rand McNally Map of Texas.  The map displays US Route 80A branching west from mainline US Route 80 west from Mesa Street via Texas Avenue, Oregon Street, San Antonio Avenue, El Paso Street, San Antonio Avenue and Paisano Drive (previously Texas State Highway Loop 1).  The origin of US Route 80A is not fully clear as it appears to have been signed without an official request to AASHO.


In 1943 US Route 180 was extended to El Paso via a multiplex of US Route 62.  US Route 180 terminate at Mesa Street via Texas Avenue multiplexed on US Route 80, US Route 62 and US Route 54.  US Route 180 can be seen terminating in downtown El Paso the 1946 Texas Highway Department Map (courtesy usends.com).  


During 1946 the New Mexico State Highway Department submitted an application to AASHO to extend US Route 85 concurrent with US Route 80 to the Texas state line.  AASHO initially rejected the request and noted the Executive Committee would prefer US Route 85 be multiplexed to downtown El Paso along US Route 80.  The AASHO Executive Committee requested the New Mexico State Highway Department alter their application to include the Texas Highway Department to extend US Route 85 to El Paso.  Ultimately the request was altered, and US Route 85 was extended to downtown El Paso.  


US Route 85 can be seen concurrent with US Route 80 along Mesa Street to Texas Avenue in downtown El Paso on the 1949 Texas Highway Department map (courtesy usends.com).  


During 1950 Paisano Drive east of downtown El Paso would open to traffic.  US Route 80A was extended eastward following Paisano Drive towards Mainline US Route 80 at Texas Street.  US Route 54 was later realigned onto Paisano Drive towards the border along Santa Fe Street.  

Mainline US Route 80 east of downtown El Paso can be seen realigned onto one-way couplets on the 1961 Texas Highway Department Map (courtesy usends.com).  Eastbound US Route 80 was carried east of Mesa Street via Myrtle Avenue whereas westbound traffic remained on Texas Avenue.  US Route 62 and US Route 180 are shown realigned into downtown via one-way couplets on Montana Avenue (westbound) and Yandell Boulevard (eastbound).  US Route 180 would be extended to Grand Canyon National Park in 1961 and would be carried west out of downtown El Paso multiplexed along US Route 80 on Mesa Street.  


During December 1964 AASHO would approve a Texas Highway Department request to delete US Route 80A in El Paso.  Paisano Drive would subsequently be signed only as US Route 54 east of Santa Fe Street.  Paisano Drive west of Santa Fe Street would be designated as Texas State Highway Loop 16.  




Much of the original mainline routing of US Route 80 in El Paso would become part of Texas State Highway 20 during April 1969.  Mainline US Route 80 was realigned onto a multiplex of Interstate 10 through El Paso.


During 1974 the US Routes in El Paso were realigned.  US Route 85 was moved off of Mesa Street and realigned towards the Mexican Border via western Paisano Drive in addition to Santa Fe Street.  US Route 62 was realigned to the Mexican Border via eastern Paisano Drive and Santa Fe Street.  US Route 54 was realigned onto the Bridge of the Americas.  US Route 180 began to multiplex Interstate 10 and US Route 80 at eastern Paisano Drive towards the New Mexico state line.  

The new alignments of the US Routes can be seen on the 1983 United States Geological Survey Map of El Paso.  The original surface routing of US Route 80 can be seen solely signed as Texas State Highway 20.  


AASHTO approved a Texas State Highway & Public Transportation Commission request to truncate US Route 80 from the New Mexico state line to Dallas on October 12, 1991.  This approval fully removed US Route 80 from city of El Paso along with the multiplex on Interstate 10.  






Part 2; scenes along former US Route 80 in El Paso

The original alignment of US Route 80 in downtown El Paso had it transition from Mesa Street to Texas Avenue eastbound.  This routing is now preserved as part of Texas State Highway 20.  The intersection of Mesa Street and Texas Avenue it notable due to it being the location where numerous US Routes terminated.  The corner of Mesa Street/Texas Street has served as the terminus of US Route 85, US Route 366, US Route 70, US Route 54, US Route 62 and US Route 180 at various points through the history of the US Route System.  


US Route 80 along Mesa Street once passed San Jacinto Plaza in downtown El Paso.  San Jacinto Plaza was originally the location of the military post of El Paso del Norte.  The city of El Paso would acquire the former military post during 1881 and clear it to make way for a park.  The park was named "San Jacinto Plaza" during 1903 in honor of the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto.  








Pictured below is the intersection of El Paso Street and San Antonio Avenue which was once part of early US Route 80A. 


Pictured is El Paso Street facing north at the intersection Paisano Drive.  The 1950 iteration of US Route 80A would have crossed left to right in the second photo below.  Today US Route 85 northbound branches to the left and eastbound US Route 62 now branches to the right.  



The view west from Paisano Drive at El Paso Street.


Below is a photo tour of Paisano Drive along modern US Route 62 from El Paso Street east to Interstate 10.  US Route 80A would have once intersected mainline US Route 80 at Texas Avenue where Texas State Highway 20 is now located. 






















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