The Texas farm-to-market road

Although more a few Texas farm-to-market roads were transformed by population sprawl to urban beltways, such as the FM 1960 loop around Houston and FM 1604 loop around San Antonio, most FMs maintain their original country character. Farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads account for more than 50 percent of Texas Highway System.

In 1937, the first farm-to-market road is completed between Mount Enterprise and Shiloh in Rusk County, in the East Texas pineywoods, a distance of 5.8 miles, but the beneficiary was the Temple Lumber Company sawmill. Soon after, though, urban area lobbyists pushed for gasoline taxes to be directed toward urban arterial routes. Prevailing over the urbanites was perceived need by Texans and their legislature to connect the isolated central and western part of the state. In 1949, the legislature amended Colson-Briscoe to earmark and additional $15 million of the state's annual General Revenue funding for farm-to-market and ranch roads to be matched with federal funds.

Ironically, when population growth turned farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads into urban arterials, residents rejected as “un-Texas” the idea of renaming these roads Urban Roads. A few were renamed, and although they benefit from state maintenance, they do not receive federal funds for expansion.

In “Texas Primer: The Farm-to-Market Road” (Texas Highways, 1983), Paul Burka writes:” [The farm-to-market road ]is different from other highways: narrower, more winding, more attuned to the contours of the earth. You can’t drive as fast, and you don’t want to, because on a farm-to-market road, the feeling is of driving on the land, instead of past it.” Burka goes to say, “The farm-to-market road is to Texas what the freeway is to California: not just a highway, but a symbol of the culture.” <\