(Note: The following is part of a series of articles looking at the growth of roads and transportation in Georgia and Bulloch County beginning in 1807.)
In 1916, the United States Congress passed the Federal Aid Road Act, in which $75 million was given to the states to create a system of paved highways.
The Savannah Automobile Club had sponsored a fact-finding tour of the state’s roads in the summer of 1914. Starting in Savannah, the group caravanned across the state to Columbus.
As a result of the trip, they created the Dixie Overland Highway Association, whose specific purpose was to urge the creation of paved road from the Atlantic Ocean to the Alabama state line.
Congress then enacted the 1921 Federal Aid Highway Act that set aside another $75 million per year. The legislation required that at least 7 percent of the money spent must be used to build a National Federal Highway system.
A new agency was created: the Bureau of Public Roads, led by Thomas MacDonald. He stated that in his mind, a system of public roads would serve four needs: agriculture, recreation, commerce and national defense.
Georgia proposed an east-west southern route and suggested calling it the Dixie Overland Highway. Once built as U.S Highway 80, it soon earned the nickname “Broadway to America” and was only passed in popularity by the famous “Route 66.”
In 1927, the states reported that 30 percent of Highway 80 was paved with brick, concrete or macadam, and some 60 percent was paved in sand, clay, gravel or topsoil. As we all know, U.S. 80 wound up being routed right through the heart of Statesboro.
Statesboro’s mayor and city council were told the curves on Statesboro’s North and East Main Street were too sharp to build the highway there. Therefore, the city of Statesboro and Bulloch County straightened city streets right away.
The eastern entrance into Statesboro of U.S. 80 was at Lester’s Branch, and the western entrance came into the city at Stricks Place.
On January 21, 1932, Gov. Richard Russell, accompanied by state and local officials in 50 cars, drove on the new highway from Savannah into Statesboro, stopping at the National Guard Armory, where he addressed a very large crowd.
The Dixie Highway Association marketed the new highway as “The Shortest and Only Year-Round Ocean To Ocean Highway.” Unfortunately, U.S. 80 now ends in the city of Dallas, as the rest of the western route was taken over by other highways.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.