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Texas Department of Transportation

Agency History

The Texas Department of Transportation, in cooperation with local and regional officials, is responsible for planning, designing, building, operating, and maintaining the state’s transportation system to deliver a safe, reliable, and integrated transportation system that enables the movement of people and goods. This involves the state’s entire transportation system, including its rail lines, inland and water ports, airports, waterways, and pipelines.

Road administration began with the Texas Highway Department, created in 1917 (House Bill 2, 35th Texas Legislature, Regular Session) to stimulate the building and improvement of roads throughout the state. The Federal Aid Road Act of July 11, 1916 (39 Stat. 355; 16 U.S.C. 503; 23 U.S.C. 15, 48), signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, initiated federal aid for highways with the requirement that each state receiving aid have a state highway department that controlled the building of roads. The state department’s responsibilities were to administer federal funds to counties for state highway construction and maintenance and to provide for state motor vehicle registration, fees from which were to generate the state’s required matching funds. The Texas Highway Department began operation on June 4, 1917, with the first meeting of the three-member Texas Highway Commission: commissioners Curtis Hancock, T.R. McLean, and H.C. Odle. In the summer of 1917, after gathering information at public hearings, the commission proposed an 8,865-mile state highway network. Further influence from the national level came with the Federal Highway Act of 1921, which required state highway departments to control the design, construction, and maintenance of roads rather than Texas’ practice of allowing counties to undertake the work themselves with oversight from department engineers. In 1924, Gibb Gilchrist became the fourth state highway engineer and the department assumed active control of maintenance and construction of state highways. During his tenure, Gilchrist oversaw a period of significant modernization in the department and instituted a beautification policy for roadsides. Gilchrist resigned in 1925 and a quick succession of five men held the department’s executive post from 1925 to 1928. Gilchrist returned to serve from 1928 until 1937.

Passage of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 led to the . . .

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Only those departments and divisions represented in the Texas Digital Archive are listed below.

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