Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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Timeline of State Highway Commission

100th anniversary of State Highway Commission logo
100th anniversary of State Highway Commission

Key dates:

  • 1908 – Wisconsin voters amend the state’s constitution, allowing state government to appropriate funds for highway improvements.
  • June 14, 1911 - Wisconsin Governor Francis McGovern signs what would become Chapter 337 of the 1911 Wisconsin Session Laws establishing a part time, five-member State Highway Commission to oversee a $350,000 annual state highway appropriation.
  • June 27, 1911 - Governor McGovern appoints State Highway Commission members: John Van Doren of Birnamwood (6-year term); John Owen of Eau Claire (4-year term); John Hazelwood of Jefferson (2-year term), and two ex-officio members: State Geologist, William Hotchkiss and Frederick Turneaure, Dean of the College of Engineering.
  • July 17, 1911 - State Highway Commission meets for the first time. John Hazelwood elected Chairman.
  • 1912 - State Highway Commission establishes the “Wisconsin Road School” to annually gather county highway commissioners, municipal officials, road contractors and others to identify best practices in highway construction and maintenance
  • 1912 – Wisconsin counties and towns request $800,000 in state aid for roadways ($450,000 more than available).
  • 1913 – Wisconsin Legislature authorizes seven transportation division offices: Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wisconsin Rapids, La Crosse, Eau Claire and Ashland.
  • 1916 - Federal Aid Road Act provides funding for the development of paved roads.
  • 1917 - The 5,000 mile state trunk highway system is established. First Wisconsin roadmap is produced.
  • 1918 - Wisconsin develops uniform highway classification and numbering system which is later adopted nationally.
  • 1923 – Wisconsin Legislature authorizes a two-cent-per-gallon tax on motor vehicle fuel to construct or maintain highways (Governor John Blaine vetoes the bill on June 28, 1923).
  • 1925 – State Highway Fund established. Includes two-cent-per-gallon motor vehicle fuel tax, vehicle registration fees and federal aid allotted to the state.
  • 1926 – Wisconsin transportation revenue for state fiscal year ending June 30, 1926 totals $15.2 million ($4.9 million in fuel tax, $8.4 million in vehicle registration fees, and $1.9 million in federal aid).
  • 1929 - Legislature abolishes the original, five-member, part-time State Highway Commission and creates a full-time, three-member Commission.
  • 1967 - Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is created by merging the Aeronautics Commission, Department of Motor Vehicles, and Highways.

More info on Wisconsin’s transportation timeline

Questions about the content of this page:
Contact: Office of Public Affairs, opa.exec@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: April 12, 2011

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