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Exhibit celebrates DOT’s 100th anniversary

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 11:26 a.m. CDT

GREENFIELD — A new exhibit now on display at the Warren Cultural Center, 154 Public Square, Greenfield, marks the 100-year anniversary of the Iowa Department of Transportation. A Journey in Transportation: 100 Years Connecting People is a collection of informational banners, photos, books, license plates and slides that document the history of the state department.

It may be seen Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the lobby/gallery of the center through Sept. 22. A reception will be held 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday. There is no charge to view the exhibit. It is sponsored by Schildberg Construction and Henningsen Construction.

Roads, routes and rails for animal-powered wagons and stagecoaches, as well as steam-powered boats and trains began traversing the Iowa territory in the 1800s. At the turn of the 20th century, roads were being built by a variety of entities with no statewide standardization or oversight.

Recognizing the need for a more cohesive statewide roadway system, legislation was enacted in 1904 that named the Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts (today Iowa State University) to act as a highway commission. The commission’s role was to serve in an advisory capacity, giving advice and assistance at the request of county or township officials.

On April 9, 1913, a new Iowa law was enacted that took the highway commission’s duties out of the hands of the university and placed them with a new state governing body named the Iowa State Highway Commission, later to be named the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The commission was charged with general supervision and control of county and township road officials, and directed to prepare standard plans and specifications for all phases of highway and bridge work. To perform the tasks, the commission initially hired a staff of eight; that number quickly grew as the extent of the mission became clearer. By 1919, the commission had accomplished the task of designating a 6,400-mile primary road system.

In 1974, the state of Iowa conducted a review of all state services and departments. The outcome was a reorganization of state government and consolidation of multimodal transportation agencies into a single entity — The Iowa Department of Transportation.

Today, the Iowa DOT provides motor vehicle, highway transit, aviation, railroad, waterway and trails programs and services. Approximately 3,000 employees work to keep travelers safe and transportation moving efficiently. Additional information is available at its website:, history site:, or friend IDOT on Facebook.

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