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Michigan Department of Transportation
Logo of the Michigan Department of Transportation
Agency overview
Formed July 1, 1905
Preceding agency Michigan State Highway Department
Jurisdiction The state of Michigan
Headquarters 425 West Ottawa Street
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Annual budget $3.3 Billion [1]
Agency executive Kirk Steudle, Director
Official MDOT Website

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is a constitutional government agency in the U.S. state of Michigan. The primary purpose of MDOT is to maintain the Michigan State Trunkline Highway System which includes all Interstate, US and state highways in Michigan with the exception of the Mackinac Bridge. Other responsibilities that fall under MDOT's mandate include airports, shipping and rail in Michigan.




Early history

The first State Highway Department was created on July 1, 1905.[2] The department was born out of the good-roads movement at the turn of the century. Bicycle enthusiasts as a part of the League of American Wheelmen pushed for better roads and streets. They also wanted to ensure that bicyclists could use these streets and roads free from interference from horsedrawn vehicles. This movement persuaded the Michigan State Legislature to form a State Highway Commission in 1892. Another law in 1893 allowed voters in each county to establish county road commissions.[3] The attention of Michigan residents was turned to the good-roads movement by Horatio S. Earle, the first state highway commission. In 1900, he organized the first International Road Congress in Port Huron and even put together a tour of a 1-mile (1.6 km) macadam road. He even ran for the state senate in 1900 at the urging of the Detroit Bicycle Club.[4] The legislature set up a state reward system for highways and created the State Highway Department with an office of Highway Commissioner. Earle was appointed by Governor Aaron Bliss. This appointment and department were voided when the attorney general ruled the law unconstitutional. A constitutional amendment was passed in 1905 to reverse this decision. The department was formed, and Earle was appointed commissioner by Governor Fred Warner on July 1, 1905.[2]

At first the department administered rewards to the counties and townships for building roads to state minimum specifications. In 1905, there were 68,000 miles (110,000 km) of roads in Michigan. Of these roads, only 7,700 miles (12,000 km) were improved with gravel and 245 miles (394 km) were macadam. The state's "statute labor system" was abolished in 1907. Under that system, a farmer and a team of horses could work on road improvements in place of paying road taxes. Instead a property tax system was instituted with the funding only for permanent improvements, not maintenance. The nation's first mile of concrete roadway was laid along Woodward Avenue between Six Mile and Seven Mile roads in Detroit. This section of street was 17 feet 8 inches (5.38 m) wide. Work began by the Wayne County Road Commission on April 2, 1909 and finished on July 4, 1909 at a cost of $13,354 (equivalent to $315,649 today[5]).[6]

In 1913, voters elected Frank Rogers to the post of highway commissioner. This election was the first after the legislature made it an elective post. Automobile registrations surged to 20 times the level at the department's formation, to 60,438, and there were 1,754 miles (2,823 km) of roads built under the rewards system. Passage of the "State Trunkline Act" provided for 3,000 miles (4,828 km) of roadways with double rewards payments.[7] Further legislation during the Rogers administration allowed for special assessment taxing districts for road improvements, taxation of automobiles based on weight and horsepower and tree-planting along highway roadsides. Another law allowed the commissioner to name all unnamed state roads. It also allowed for the posting of signage with the names and distances to towns.[8] The first centerline was painted on a state highway in 1917 along the Marquette-Negaunee Road which was designated Trunkline 15, now Marquette County Road 492 (The first centerline was invented in 1911 in Wayne County by Edward N. Hines.) That same year the first stop sign was put in place and the country's first "crow's nest" traffic signal tower was installed in Detroit. This traffic light using red-yellow-green was developed by William Potts, a Detroit police officer.[9] Michigan is also home to the first snowplow.[10] This winter maintenance started during World War I to keep 590 miles (950 km) of strategic highways clear.[9] In 1919, Michigan first signed the trunklines, the second state after Wisconsin to do so.[11]

The first ferry service was started on July 1, 1923 linking the Upper and Lower peninsulas. The first gasoline tax was enacted in 1923 at the rate of $0.02/gal (equivalent to $0.25/gal today[5]), but vetoed by Governor Alex Groesbeck.[12] It was later enacted effective in 1926. The highway commissioner was also given complete control over the planning and maintenance of the state trunklines. Construction switched to concrete or asphalt only instead of gravel and macadam with an increase in the gas tax in 1927. Highway construction in the 1920s earned Michigan national attention. The first trunklline completed in concrete was M-16 (later part of US 16). The road was built to a standard of 20 feet (6.1 m) and between 7 inches (17.8 cm) and 9 inches (22.9 cm) thick. The current standard at the time was 16 feet (4.9 m) wide and 6 inches (15.2 cm) thick.[13] The 1920s were also busy for Michigan highways as Michigan developed the yellow-line center line to indicate no-passing zones for sight-restricted hills and curves. Roadside picnic tables, soil testing and aerial surveying of highways also debuted at this time. As MDOT historians put it, "the age of mud was over; the age of concrete was moving in.[14]

Later history

During the Great Depression, highway construction slowed down with decreased gas tax and property tax revenues. License plate fees were sent to the counties for road funding starting in 1932 and road crews made of "reliefers". The federal aid money was split between the highway department and the welfare department. The county welfare agencies supplied workers on road construction projects across the state.[15] Roadside parks and travel information centers debuted in the 1930s as well.[16] During World War II the department built the Willow Run Expressway and the Detroit Industrial Expressway in 11 months so workers could get to the Ford Motor Company's bomber plant at Willow Run.[17] When the Interstate Highway System was created in the late 1950s, Michigan modified existing freeway plans to fit the Interstate standards. In the 1960s, nearly 1,000 miles (2,000 km) of freeways were built at an average pace of one new mile every three to four days. Michigan was also the first state to complete a border to border Interstate, I-94 from New Buffalo to Detroit running 205 miles (330 km).[18] The 1950s and 60s also brought the completion of several major bridges in Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge in 1957, the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in 1959 and the International Bridge in 1962. The biggest bridge designed by the department spanned the River Rouge carrying the Fisher Freeway (I-75). This bridge was 8,367 feet (2,550 m) long and 115 feet (35 m) high.[19]

The adoption of the 1963 constitution reorganized the department. No longer would the highway commissioner be elected. Instead, a six-member commission appointed by the governor would select a department director. The new commission would also have jurisdiction over "such other public works of the state as provided by law.[20] This authorization led to 1970s reorganization of the department. An executive order by Governor William G. Milliken gave the department authority over all transportation programs in Michigan. The department was renamed on 1973-08-23 to the Michigan Department of Highways and Transportation giving it responsibility for aviation, railroads, buses, ships, ports and non-motorized pathways and trails.[21]

Railroad subsidies

The Department provides subsidies to Amtrak Michigan Services operations in the state for the Blue Water and the Pere Marquette lines.[22][23]

State Highway Commissioners

  • Horatio S. Earle, 1905-1909
  • Townsend A. Ely, 1909-1913
  • Frank F. Rogers, 1913-1929
  • Grover C. Dillman, 1929-1933
  • Murray Van Wagoner, 1933-1940
  • Donald Kennedy, 1940-1942
  • Lloyd B. Reid, 1942-1943
  • Charles M. Ziegler, 1943-1957
  • John C. Mackie, 1957-1964

Department Directors

  • Howard E. Hill, 1965-1967
  • Henrik E. Stafseth, 1967-1972
  • John P. Woodford, 1972-1982
  • James P. Pitz, 1982-1991
  • Patrick M. Nowak, 1991-1996
  • Robert Welke, 1996-1997
  • James R. DeSana, 1997-2001
  • Gregory J. Rosine, 2001-2002
  • Gloria J. Jeff, 2003-2006
  • Kirk Steudle, 2006-Present

Transportation Commission

Chair: Ted B. Wahby (St. Clair Shores) March 27, 1997 to December 21, 2008.

Vice Chair: Linda Miller Atkinson (Channing) March 19, 2004 to December 21, 2009.

Jerrold M Jung (Birmingham) September 2, 2007 to December 21, 2009.

Maureen Miller Brosnan (Livonia) March 8, 2005 to December 21, 2010.

James S. Scalici (Bingham Farms) January 12, 2006 to December 21, 2008



Michigan Aeronautics Commission

Commissioner Appointer Term
Joyce Woods, Chair Governor Jennifer Granholm 2006
Sidney Adams, Jr., Vice Chair 2001
James Collins Governor Jennifer Granholm August 2004
Terry Everman Governor Jennifer Granholm 2003
J. William Prochazka Governor Jennifer Granholm November 2006
Capt. Dan Atkinson Col. Peter Munoz, Michigan State Police
Brig. Gen. Richard G. Elliott Maj. Gen. Tom Cutler, Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
Dennis Fedewa Rebecca Humphries, Director, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Leon Hank Kirk Steudle, Director, Michigan Department of Transportation


The Michigan Aeronautics Commission is charged with creating rules regarding airports, related facilities and pilot training. It is composed of five Governorial appointees and 4 department head representatives.[26]

Bureau of Aeronautics

The Bureau of Aeronautics caries out the enforcement of the Commission's rules. It has two divisions: Airports Division, Aviation Services. The Bureau was formed out of the Multi-Modal Transportation Services Bureau in 2006.[27] The Airports Division runs development programs for airports which includes planning, design safety evaluation and construction. Additional, this division licenses airports, flight schools, aircraft, and aircraft dealers and inspects airports. Seminars for pilots are run to keep license pilots up to date on current procedures.[26] The first bureau director is Rob Abent.[27] The Aviation Services Division assists airports in bring in and retaining airline services. Through the Airport Preservation Program, this division aids at risk airports to find ways to stay open.[26]

See also


  • Kulsea, Bill; Shawver, Tom (1980). Making Michigan Move: A History of Michigan Highways and the Michigan Department of Transportation. Kach, Carol. Lansing, Michigan: Michigan Department of Transportation. ASIN B0006OWZHG.  
  1. ^ "Executive Budget, Fiscal Year 2010" (PDF). Michigan Department of Management and Budget. February 12, 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2009.  
  2. ^ a b Kulsea, p.3
  3. ^ Kulsea, p.1
  4. ^ Kulsea, p.2
  5. ^ a b "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved 2009-08-01.  
  6. ^ Kulsea, p.5
  7. ^ Kulsea, p.7
  8. ^ Kulsea, p.9
  9. ^ a b Kulsea, p.10
  10. ^ "Transportation Timeline". Michigan Department of Transportation.,1607,7-151-9620_11154-105941--,00.html. Retrieved April 18, 2008.  
  11. ^ Michigan State Highway Department. State of Michigan [map]. Cartography by MSHD. (July 1, 1919) Retrieved on March 2, 2008.
  12. ^ Kulsea, p.11
  13. ^ Kulsea, p.12
  14. ^ Kulsea, p.13
  15. ^ Kulsea, p. 15
  16. ^ Kulsea, p.17
  17. ^ Kulsea, p.18
  18. ^ Kulsea, p.20
  19. ^ Kulsea, pp.22-3
  20. ^ Kulsea, p.24
  21. ^ Kulsea, p.27
  22. ^ "Routes - Midwest". Michigan Services. Amtrak. Retrieved October 30, 2006.  
  23. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2005" (PDF). Amtrak. Retrieved October 30, 2006.  
  24. ^ "Michigan State Transportation Commission". Michigan Department of Transportation.,1607,7-151-9623_31969_31970---,00.html. Retrieved August 22, 2008.  
  25. ^ "Michigan Aeronautics Commission". Michigan Aeronautics Commission.,1607,7-145-6771_6903_13755---,00.html. Retrieved August 22, 2008.  
  26. ^ a b c "A Citizen’s Guide to MDOT" (PDF). Michigan Department of Transportation. 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2008.  
  27. ^ a b "Rob Abent". Michigan Aeronautics Commission. October 24, 2006.,1607,7-145-6771_6903_13755-60024--,00.html. Retrieved August 22, 2008.  

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