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Missouri Department of Transportation

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History Chronology  


The Early Years
  • Around 1735, the first unofficial road in Missouri was called Three Notch Road.
  • In 1808, The King's Highway, from St. Louis to southeast Missouri, became the first legally designated road west of the Mississippi River.
  • Some of the first roads in Missouri were made with wooden planks.
  • In 1893 a St. Louisan named J. D. P. Lewis built a "self-propelled vehicle," the city's first.
  • The first speed limit in Missouri was set in 1903 at 9 miles per hour.
  • The world's first gasoline station was started in 1905 in St. Louis by C. H. Laessig. The gasoline was delivered through a garden hose. Before then, gasoline was purchased by the can at grocery stores.




Prior to 1907, highway improvements were left entirely to the counties, most of which were without trained or experienced engineers. Nor was there coordination of planning among the counties. With the introduction of the motor vehicle, highway transportation needs were not being met; and it became evident that insurmountable road deficiencies were no longer manageable at the county level.

Missouri Legislature creates the position of state highway engineer, reporting to the Board of Agriculture.
State Highway Department created by the Legislature.
Congress passes federal highway act, which makes federal funds available to states based on area, population and postal road mileage.
Missouri Legislature passes Hawes Law so Missouri can receive federal funds and also creates State Road Fund and a four-member State Highway Board.
$60 million bond issue passes to "get Missouri out of the mud."
Formal department operations are established when the Legislature passes the Centinnial Road Law, creating a four-member State Highway Commission and the positions of secretary, chief engineer and chief counsel.
Proposition 5 passes, creating the state's first fuel tax, 2-cents per gallon.
Missouri becomes the first state to earmark and protect funds for highway purposes.
State Highway Patrol is created.
Missouri Legislature makes it "unlawful" to drive any motor vehicle on any highway of the state without either an operator's or chauffeur's license.
Fuel tax increases to 3 cents per gallon.
Department takes over responsibility for almost 12,000 miles of county highways, bringing 95 percent of all Missiourians to within two miles of a hard-surfaced road.
Missouri becomes first state in the nation to take bids and begin construction on the interstate highway system.
Fuel tax increases to 5 cents per gallon; County Aid Road Trust (CART) Fund created.
The commission's membership is increased by the Legislature from four to six members.
Fuel tax increases to 7 cents per gallon.
Missouri State Department of Transportation created.
Missouri Highway Department and Transportation Department merge creating the Missouri Highway and Transportation Department.
Proposition A passes and increases motor fuel tax by 4 cents per gallon.
Department district boundaries change.
A 6-cent per gallon motor fuel tax is passed by the Legislature, to be phased in over a five-year period.
The department commits to the Short-Term Action Plan to complete priority projects within a four-year period.
Legislation passes stating the department shall be known as the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Accountability legislation passes requiring MoDOT to submit an annual report to the legislature by November 10 and creating the position of MoDOT director.
Department adopts a rolling 5-Year Plan for highway and bridge improvements in the state. The 15-Year Plan is no longer used by MoDOT as the financial blueprint for construction projects.
Legislation was passed, effective May 30, 2000, allowing MoDOT to issue $2.25 billion in bond financing to accelerate highway improvements.


Legislation is passed extending the 6-cents-per-gallon motor-fuel tax, which was due to expire in 2008. Proposition B, an omnibus transportation bill that would have increased the motor-fuel tax by 4 cents per gallon and the general sales tax by 1/2 percent, is defeated by voters by a 3-to-1 margin.


In November, Missouri voters approved Constitutional Amendment 3, which requires all revenues collected from the sale of motor vehicles come to MoDOT.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approves the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program to repair or replace 802 of Missouri’s worst bridges in five years.
Funding issues and other factors force a restructuring of the department.  MoDOT moves from 10 districts to seven to consolidate and streamline operations.
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Missouri Department of Transportation
Central Office
105 W. Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65102
1-888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636)
1-866-831-6277 (Motor Carrier Services)
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