Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission is a
six-member bipartisan board that guides the Missouri
Department of Transportation. Commission members are
appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Missouri
Senate. No more than three commission members may be
of the same political party. The term on the commission
is six years.
Department of Transportation's director and secretary
to the commission are appointed by the commission. All
other appointments and hiring are done by the director,
with the approval of the commission.
|Stephen R. Miller, Chair
|Lloyd J. Carmichael, Vice Chair
|Kenneth H. Suelthaus
|Gregg C. Smith
|Michael B. Pace
State Highway Commission, being bipartisan, submits
that a highway program should be considered without
regard to political affiliation or to party politics.
Likewise, the problem of improving our highway program
is both urban and rural. The busiest thoroughfare in
our largest metropolitan area leads to our most remote
country road. The State Highway Commission submits that
the road problem in Missouri is not one involving one
political party as against the other, or involving one
area or section of the state as against another, or
involving metropolitan areas as against rural areas.
The highway problem is state-wide and involves all the
people of Missouri (from March 14, 1961, meeting minutes) .
The desire to get from one place to another has existed
since people first set foot on the earth. The fascination
with travel has prompted many transportation developments
including horses, boats, bicycles, cars, trains and
airplanes. As transportation became more complex, the
next logical step was for government to be involved.
Highways in Missouri began to develop even before Missouri
was officially welcomed into the Union in 1821. Early
state Legislatures outlined highway networks that became
the framework for the present-day highways Missourians
have come to enjoy and rely on.
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission
is the body responsible for planning for and maintaining
the state's highway network and also has responsibilities
in the other modes. The Centennial Road Law of 1921
is considered the beginning of the modern-day Highway
and Transportation Commission. It is in recognition
of the efforts of those past, present and future commissioners
that this publication is dedicated.
The Mud Years
Prior to 1907, highway improvements were left entirely
to the counties, who for the most part were without
trained or experienced engineers. Nor was there any
coordination of planning among the counties. With the
introduction of the motor vehicle, highway transportation
needs were not being met. It became evident that insurmountable
road deficiencies were no longer curable at the county
In 1907, the state highway engineer was responsible
to the Department of Agriculture, which was the state's
first Highway Commission. In 1909, the 45th General
Assembly passed a law providing for the creation of
a "General State Road Fund" to which all monies accruing
to the state from any general or special levy taxes
for road purposes, including improvements or construction,
were to be credited. This fund was to be apportioned
and distributed to the several counties when such
counties provided the necessary funds to pay for at
least one-half of the cost of such road improvement
In 1913, the 47th General Assembly eliminated the Department
of Agriculture's highway responsibilities by passing
a law creating a State Highway Department. The law also
mandated the governor to appoint a highway commissioner,
and F. W. Buffum was named to the position. Buffum's
duties were largely advisory, and his principal responsibility
was to encourage counties to make road improvements.
Buffum remained in office until the spring of 1917.
In 1917, more people were purchasing automobiles (almost
300,000 vehicles were operating on Missouri's highways,
compared to more than four million in 1995) and thus
the sentiment for better roads had reached top momentum.
In the same year, the State Legislature passed the Hawes
Road Law, which provided for a bipartisan Highway Board
of four members. The members appointed under this law
were E. L. Sanford, George. E. McIninch, S. S. Pingree
and C. O. Raine. John
M. Malang was appointed state highway superintendent
and Alexander W. Graham was appointed highway engineer.
The state was divided into six districts and a division
engineer appointed for each district.
The Hawes Law also jump-started a surge in roadbuilding
that culminated in approval of 122 projects, 61 of which
were put under contract in 1917. By the end of that
year, more than 11,000 miles were improved. The McCullough-Morgan
law of 1919 created the position of state highway superintendent
and made the position the ex-officio secretary to the
highway board. The law also guaranteed each county in
the state at least two state roads, including not less
than 50 miles on which state and federal funds were
to be spent.
The First Official State Highway Commission
In commemoration of Missouri's 100th year of statehood,
the first bipartisan State Highway Commission was created
by the "Centennial Road Law" in a special legislative
session. This law shifted the focus of Missouri highway
building from the local to the state level. On Dec.
1, 1921, Governor Arthur M. Hyde appointed Theodore
Gary, chairman; S. S. Connett, vice chairman; Murray
Carleton and C. D. Matthews as members. State Geologist
H. A. Buehler was appointed as an ex-officio member.
The Centennial Road Law empowered the commission to
locate, design, construct and maintain a "state highway
system". This system was to include approximately 6,000
miles of secondary roads and 1,500 miles of primary
roads. The commission was also authorized to:
Make the rules governing its own organization; Compile
highway statistics; Prepare plans and make estimates
Let all contracts; Prescribe uniform highway markings;
and Purchase or lease land.
The Centennial Road Law gave the State Highway Commission
the authority to "have supervision of highways and bridges
which are constructed, improved, and maintained in whole
or in part by the aid of state moneys, and of highways
constructed in whole or in part by the aid of moneys
appropriated by the United States government, so far
as such supervision is consistent with the acts of Congress
relating thereto." In addition it provided for the commission's
appointment of the positions of commission secretary,
chief engineer and chief counsel. This was an important
law, and one that proved to be a solid foundation for
Missouri's current modern highway system.
In the 1920's and '30's, the commission undertook an
aggressive roadbuilding program that improved the state's
highway system and "Got Missouri out of the mud." As
the nation struggled with the Great Depression, the
state's highway-building efforts slowed, but still made
The Middle Years -- The 1940s through the 1970s
The United State's entry into World War II in 1942 presented
new challenges for the Highway and Transportation Commission
and the state. The normal peace-time economy was giving
way to an all-out war effort that affected every business
in every state of America. Materials were scarce, and
the expenditure of every dollar required earnest consideration,
foresight and careful planning.
The Takeover Program
The Missouri 10-Year Highway Modernization and Expansion
Program, better known as the Takeover Program, began
in 1952. The department's goal was to
incorporate and upgrade 12,000 miles of additional roads
to the state's supplementary or farm-to-market highway
system. The state relieved the counties of
maintenance costs of these roads, providing welcome
relief to rural Missouri.
At the conclusion of this program, the department had
met and even exceeded its goal of providing Missourians
with a state-maintained road within at least 2 miles
of more than 95 percent of all rural family units -
a family unit being a farm home, school, church, cemetery
Missouri - First in the Interstate System
On Aug. 2, 1956, Missouri became the first state in
the nation to take bids and begin work on state highway
improvements under provisions of the new Federal Aid
Highway Program enacted by Congress late in June of
that same year, the program that started the interstate
highway system. Three highway construction projects
worth over $5 million were undertaken by the department;
one on U.S. Route 66 in Laclede County and the others
on U.S. Route 40 in the city of St. Louis and in St.
Congress initiated outdoor advertising legislation in
1965. At the June 10, 1965, commission meeting, the
chief engineer reported that he attended a conference
in Washington DC, called by the president of the United
States, to discuss preservation of natural beauty along
the nation's highways. Congress introduced four bills
that year regarding beautification of the interstate
and primary highway systems, including billboard removal
and junkyard disposition. Compliance with national
government outdoor advertising laws became a major departmental
effort over the next several years and is still a major
Commission Membership Increased
State law increased the Highway Commission membership
from four to six in 1965. Bruce Ring, chief counsel
for the commission between 1975-1986, recalls that "this
bill, in its initial version, was very controversial
because the amendment proposed requiring one commission
member per each congressional district." The commission
strongly opposed this version because it felt the entire
state would not receive fair representation, so the
version adding two commissioners was adopted.
Highway and Transportation Department Combined
Missouri voters passed Amendment 2 on Nov. 6, 1979,
which combined the Missouri Highway Department with
the Department of Transportation to form the Missouri
Highways and Transportation Department on Jan. 1, 1980.
This constitutional amendment gave the newly created
Highway and Transportation Commission responsibilities
in all state transportation programs and facilities.