Iowa DOT History

More than 100 years of the Iowa Department of Transportation

For more than a century, the Iowa Highway Commission and Iowa DOT have promoted the growth and betterment of Iowa’s transportation system. Still headquartered in Ames, the agency continues to serve the transportation needs of Iowa and its citizens.

The Iowa State Highway Commission (IHC) becomes an independent state-administered organization

On April 9, 1913, the IHC separated from the Iowa State College, becoming an independent state-administered organization, managed by a three-member commission, comprised of Anson Marston, H.C. Beard and J.W. Holden.

Iowa Department of Transportation created

In 1974, the 65th Iowa General Assembly created the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), albeit through a long legislative process. It placed other modal agencies, including an Aeronautics Commission, under the department’s responsibility. The DOT was created to promote more orderly and effective planning and funding of programs, and to achieve a more balanced transportation system.

This is Your Highway Commission video

In 1968, the Iowa State Highway Commission (IHC), created and released "This is YOUR Highway Commission", a 24 ½- minute film that showcased the responsibilities and functions of the IHC. The narrator describes the activities of various offices and employees, and explains how those activities benefited Iowa’s citizens and motorists. The film journeys through all areas of IHC's responsibility for Iowa’s roadways including: administration, planning, design, bidding, right of way, materials, construction, maintenance and facilities.

Highway Relocations (U.S. 30/Lincoln Highway film production)

This 16-minute film, produced in 1960, and titled "Highway Relocations", was created by the Iowa State Highway Commission (IHC), now the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT). The film depicts traffic congestion, sharp and winding sections of road, steep hills slowing trucks to a crawl and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian crossings. These were important factors in changes to highway design and safety improvements, and depicted the reason the highway relocation was needed. In fact, when the film was produced, U.S. 30 ( Lincoln Highway) was the busiest primary road in Iowa. The section between State Center and Boone was deemed “critical,” meaning it was considered dangerous by the IHC’s efficiency standards.

began painting black center line on primary roads

In 1926, Iowa began painting a center black line on every mile of primary road pavement to reduce head-on collisions.

The "Dinkey" makes its first run

July 4, 1891, the Dinkey made its first run between downtown Ames and campus.

Ceremonial pipe (calumet) presented to Iowa DOT

On Sept. 11, 1982, Hereditary Chief Ernest Wabasha VII of the Mdewakanton Dakota tribe and Maria Pearson of the Turtle Clan of the Yankton Sioux tribe presented Iowa Department of Transportation Director Warren Dunham with a ceremonial pipe (calumet) as a symbol of trust and new relations between the Iowa DOT and Iowa’s Native American community.

First regular passenger bus line opens in Iowa

In April 1911, the Red Ball Transportation Company opened the first regular passenger bus line in Iowa, operating between Charles City and Waverly.

I-235 completion ceremony

The first section of roadway was opened to traffic Dec. 14, 1961, and the final section on Oct. 30, 1968. Originally, the project was to be completed in 1972. However, in 1963, the Iowa State Highway Commission announced it planned to complete the freeway in 1968, four years ahead of schedule.

I-35 construction begins

I-35 was built between 1958 and 1975, with the early segments opening in the Des Moines area.

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