By Angela DeWelles / ADOT Communications
On July 1, 1974, the Arizona Highway Department officially became the Arizona Department of Transportation ... but the real shift involved much more than just a name change.
The big reorganization brought with it many new responsibilities for the department, including the addition of several new divisions.
Before 1974, the Highway Department was centered on, well, highways. But when ADOT was born, the focus broadened to six divisions: Aeronautics, Highways, Administrative Services, Transportation Planning, Public Transit and Motor Vehicles.
Arizona Highway Department Director Justin Herman wrote about the change in a message to employees that appeared in the June 1973 issue of Drumbeats, the department’s employee newsletter of the day. Right after Arizona Governor Jack Williams signed the reorganization into law, Herman told workers that the transition would be smooth and efficient.“We will be heading in a new and challenging direction. Some employees will still be dealing strictly with highway matters. Others will be involved in a broader look at transportation.
“The present legislation is probably only a beginning, a foundation on which new responsibilities will be added as time goes on. It can be expected that highways in Arizona will undoubtedly continue to be the dominant mode of travel, but the state for the first time will have an agency authorized to take a serious look at all transportation modes
“We have every confidence that, with each employee’s help, we can launch the new DOT successfully and ensure for Arizona a top-notch Department of Transportation such as the Highway Department now is, enriched by the high tradition of public service for which our organization has always been known.”
Highway maintenance and construction certainly didn't falter during the change. Here are some of the projects and major accomplishments from the transitional years of 1973 to 1975:
- In the 1973-74 fiscal year alone, a total of 147.7 miles of state highway were completed and opened to traffic. More than half of this was on the interstate system, which at the time was only 88% complete.
- Interstate 15 was officially opened by the governors of Arizona and Utah.
- Crews added new southbound roadway and overlaid northbound lanes for 14 miles on Interstate 17 south of Flagstaff.
- Workers reconstructed 21 miles of Interstate 10 in Pima and Cochise counties and completed the 4-mile I-10 bypass of Benson.
- Crews worked on various Interstate 40 projects west of Flagstaff.
- The agency worked toward adding two lanes of divided highway on I-17 through Copper Canyon, south of Camp Verde.
- Crews continued the Superstition Freeway from Price Road to Dobson Road in the East Valley and worked on construction of I-10 west of Phoenix.
It’s safe to say that the switch from a Highway Department to a Department of Transportation was a major milestone in Arizona’s transportation history. Look for more posts in coming weeks about this change and ADOT's history over the past nearly half century.