By John Halikowski / ADOT Director
Does the date July 1, 1974 ring a bell to you? I was in high school and living in the Midwest, and had no idea that date would have significance to me later in life. July 1, 1974, represents the beginning of what is today the Arizona Department of Transportation. We are 45 years and counting.
Let me provide a brief history lesson. Before 1974, there was the Arizona Highway Department. Its main focus was on highways – constructing and maintaining a state highway system. Our state was booming in population. Arizona experienced a 53% increase in population during the 1970s and 35% in the 1980s. It was hard to keep up with the growth, especially in the area of infrastructure. The need for a strong and reliable transportation system statewide was felt by state lawmakers. So, in 1973, the Arizona Legislature passed legislation that combined the Arizona Highway Department, the motor vehicle services agency and the Arizona Aeronautics Department. The new agency would be called the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Did you know that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had a pivotal role in the formation of ADOT? While serving as Arizona State Senate Majority Leader, she led a group of Valley lawmakers in developing the legislation that would establish ADOT in 1973.
Per the legislation, ADOT was now responsible for all the state highways and state-owned airports, and would play a role in planning aviation, mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities. ADOT is the only state DOT in the country that has its own airport – Grand Canyon National Park Airport. Its terminal has been in operation for 52 years.
The Motor Vehicle Division was already in existence and its functions were also added to the agency’s responsibilities. MVD continued to be responsible for vehicle registration, driver licensing, revenue collection and distribution. Our port and enforcement activities were also under MVD.
There have been seven ADOT directors since 1974, including me. I am now going on my 10th year as director. I am sure each director will tell you there have been many challenges during their tenure and a great deal of satisfaction when it comes to providing a safe and reliable transportation system for the people of Arizona. The employees at ADOT have always thought of safety first – it’s been our mantra since day one.
I invite you to read our employee newsletter, The Inside Lane, from now until December. We are taking a walk down memory lane and revisiting our history as an agency. We are identifying milestones in 10-year increments in each issue, having employees share their memories of working at ADOT and writing about changes in the industry and workplace. I think you will be amazed on what ADOT has accomplished these past 45 years.
So, here’s to you, ADOT – 45 years and counting….
This post originally appeared on ADOT Director John Halikowski's
LinkedIn page. He has led the agency since 2009.