| | |
Missouri Department of Transportation
About Business Services Bidding & Contracting Plans & Projects Other Transportation News & Information Safety

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.

The Highway and Transportation Department was formed when voters approved Constitutional Amendment 2 in November 1979. The amendment merged the previously separate Highways and Transportation departments. Legislation passed in 1996 changed the department's name to the Missouri Department of Transportation. The department operates under a decentralized organization with headquarters in Jefferson City. This General Headquarters office provides staff assistance and functional control for the various departmental tasks in 7 geographical districts.  Each district is under the direction of a district engineer, who is in turn responsible for administering all department activities in the region.

Two divisions within the General Headquarters are responsible for bridge design and highway planning for the state. Decisions about local highway construction, maintenance or operations are made at the district level.

Waterways, transit, aviation and railroads are established as units within the headquarters office and report to a transportation director, who reports to the deputy chief engineer. These units carry out the statewide planning for these modes; there are no counterparts in the districts. The Department of Transportation operates in a quality improvement environment to accomplish its mission to preserve, enhance and support Missouri's Transportation Systems.

MoDOT has responsibilities for five major transportation alternatives available to Missourians -- highways, aviation, waterways, transit and railroads. Those responsibilities include the total operation of the 33,600 mile highway system, including highway location, design, construction and maintenance.

In addition, the department cooperates and coordinates with owners and operators of the four other modal systems in the development and improvement of airports, rail facilities, ports and the operational cost of transit systems. Key here also is the administration of state/federal programs and funds available with these modes.

MoDOT's principal sources of state revenue are motor vehicle fuel taxes, licenses and fees and part of one-half of the motor vehicle sales tax. A small amount of revenue comes from incidental sources as fees from the sale of blueprints and maps. Voter-approved bond issues of $60 million in 1920 and $75 million in 1928 helped fund early road building programs. Bond principal and interest were paid from revenues provided by highway users. All road bonds in Missouri were retired on June 15,1957.

Additional revenue was generated in a special November 6, 1979, state election. Voters approved Amendment 2 -- a measure providing revenue through reallocation of part of one-half of the motor vehicle sales tax revenue to the department. Of this revenue, 75 percent went to the Highways and Transportation Department. Counties received a 10 percent share and cities received the remaining 15 percent.

Missouri voters approved a road and bridge improvement program on April 7, 1987, that increased the motor fuel tax from 7 to 11 cents per-gallon, increased heavy truck registration fees 10 percent and placed a cap on administrative expenses going to other state agencies. In April 1992, in response to new federal transportation legislation and the need to put Missourians back to work, the Missouri Legislature increased the motor fuel tax by 2-cents per gallon in 1992,1994 and 1996.

Coupled with this tax increase was a road and bridge improvement program, the 15-Year Plan, that was projected to complete hundreds of transportation projects across the state from 1992-2007. In November 1998, the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission approved a MoDOT staff recommendation to adopt a more realistic 5-Year Plan. This short-term highway and bridge construction schedule is designed to meet the high priority needs of Missouri. Projecting project costs and funding out over an extended period of years is not feasible.

The Centennial Road Law of 1921 provided for the creation of a system of connected state highways. Under the terms of this law and subsequent legislation and constitutional amendments, more than 33,600 miles of state highways have been constructed and improved through the years. These highways connect principal population centers, county seats and small communities within the state.

The following table gives summary statistics regarding Missouri's state highway system as of November 2010.

About Us
How Do I...
Stay Connected
Facebook Twitter Blog YouTube Flickr
MoDOT Central Office
105 W. Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65102
1-888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636)
| | |
Missouri State Government
© 1998-2012 Missouri Department of Transportation. All Rights Reserved.   Privacy Policy.