Transported Back in Time: Interstate 35

Can you imagine a time when I-35 wasn’t running through the middle of Denton County? The highway has connected North Texas communities to each other, and beyond, for almost 60 years. Before I-35 was built, U.S. 77 and 377 were Denton’s main links to Dallas and Fort Worth.

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Travelers commute on I-35 towards Denton in the 1960’s.

These roads allowed travelers easier access to other areas of the county. U.S. 77 went south to Dallas and north to Sanger, and U.S. 377 connected Denton to Fort Worth. Prior to the construction of U.S. 377 in the 1940’s, visitors from Argyle, Roanoke, and Fort Worth would drive over a hill and take Locust Street into downtown Denton.

Even with highways like U.S. 77 and U.S. 377, it was difficult for drivers to find easy routes across Texas. Highways would start and then stop, creating a disjointed system and requiring drivers to find alternate routes. Texas began building farm-to-market roads in 1949 to provide more local transportation.

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A motel located along U.S. 77 and U.S. 377, 1960’s.

In 1956, the Federal Highway Act established the interstate highway system to alleviate this disconnection across the country. As interstate highways began being built amidst the Cold War, rumors spread. Though disproved, some believed that the highways were created to accommodate emergency airplane landings, or that they held bunkers in case of an atomic bomb.

1954 Interstate Dedication clipping

The Main Street overpass on I-35E in Lewisville, 1950’s.

I-35 was built in Denton in 1959, stretching across entire state of Texas and from county-line to county-line in Denton County. When it was finished in 1960 at the cost of $14 million, I-35 spread four lanes and was called “a vision come true.”

Interstate 35E at Dallas Drive, looking south

I-35E at Dallas Dr. in the 1960’s. Open farmland sprawls on both sides.

In 1970, I-35W opened to connect Denton to Fort Worth, and the original section of I-35 was renamed to I-35E. From this point, Denton County grew more quickly than it had in a century. Since then, the interstate has played a key role in Denton, and Denton County’s, growth, bringing people and industry from across the nation to North Texas.

35w construction

The construction of I-35W in 1970.

The construction of I-35 also significantly increased the number of commuters that live in Denton County and work in Dallas or Fort Worth, and its traffic plays a role in many of our daily lives. In 2007, Musical Theatre of Denton put on a show called “Square Roots” to celebrate Denton’s Sesquicentennial. The musical featured a song written by Donna Trammell about driving on I-35. We thought you might enjoy it, so to sum things up, the lyrics are pictured below:

 

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“I-35”, written by Donna Trammell to the tune of “Stayin’ Alive.”


All information in this blog was pulled from the Office of History & Culture’s archives.

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