Florida is known for having one of the best highway networks in the country. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the agency responsible for most of it. Here is a brief look at a century of milestones achieved by the Florida Department of Transportation. Happy birthday, FDOT!
FDOT Centennial: Major Milestones
Florida State Road Department secretary Henry Philips, center, and staff. Image taken between 1921 and 1925. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/105507
State Road Department First Authorized - The State Road Department, the predecessor of today's Florida Department of Transportation, was authorized in 1915 by the Florida Legislature. For the first two years, the department acted as an advisory body to 52 counties in the state.
1915 to Present
Former FDOT Secretaries - Between the chairmen of the State Road Department and the secretaries of the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida has had a total of 38 leaders driving the state’s transportation infrastructure over the last 100 years.
UF Hosts First FDOT Laboratory - The State Road Department’s central laboratory was initially housed on the first floor of the Engineering building at the University of Florida.
First Districts Created - The State Road Department created Divisions which later became Districts.
1923 to 1928
Looking east at work boats during the construction of the Tamiami Trail. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/35488
US 41/Tamiami Trail - Construction crews built US 41/Tamiami Trail during the 1920s in Collier County. Work began on these segments of US 41 in 1923 and finished in 1928. The corridor runs along U.S. 41 both east/west and north/south throughout Florida, winding its way through cities, areas, and swampy regions. The name is derived from its connection from Tampa to Miami.
Bridge of Lions in St. Johns County - The Bridge of Lions over the Matanzas River in St. Augustine in St. Johns County was originally built in 1927 to take traffic between St. Augustine to Anastasia Island.
St. Andrews Bay Bridge Constructed - St. Andrews Bay Bridge connected the barrier island (now Panama City Beach) to Panama City in Bay County. The bridge featured a 200-foot long "swing span" that opened for shipping traffic.
Thomas Edison Attends Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Lee County Bridge - Thomas Edison attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Edison Bridge in Fort Myers, Lee County. The new drawbridge was named in his honor at his winter home of Fort Myers on his 84th birthday. Today, the original bridge serves as an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico, replaced by the dual span Edison Bridges. The ceremony was February 11, 1931.
Highway Safety First Began Under the State Road Department - The road department hired 12 weight inspectors who were placed under the supervision of division engineers. This was the beginning of state law enforcement in Florida.
U.S. 98 Opens - U.S. 98 first opened as a Florida-only U.S. highway, stretching along the northwest coast of the state from Apalachicola to Pensacola.
Ben T. Davis Causeway Opens - The Ben T. Davis Causeway opened as a private toll way and was built to provide a more direct link between Tampa and Clearwater across Old Tampa Bay
SR A1A from Dade County Line to State Road 820. Looking north towards the Dade-Broward County Line at the south end of project on September 12, 1955. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/104237
State Road 1 Renamed State Road A1A - Since State Road 1 and U.S. Highway 1 intersected and ran parallel with each other, S.R. 1 was renamed S.R. A1A to eliminate confusion and retain the numeral “1” for the most easterly vertical road. It is the only Florida state road with a letter in the name.
1946 to 1952
Drew Army Airfield - In 1946, the Drew Army Airfield was returned to the city of Tampa for civil use as Drew Field Municipal Airport. The airport later became Tampa International Airport.
First Welcome Centers Open for Travelers Coming to Florida - One of Florida’s first welcome centers opened in 1949 on U.S. 17 just south of the St. Mary’s River Bridge. Once I-95 opened to traffic, the welcome center was moved to I-95 in 1976. Today only the foundation remains of the original welcome center.
Construction of Florida's Turnpike. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38466
Construction Begins on Florida's Turnpike - Construction first began on Florida's Turnpike in the mid-1950s and was completed in 1957. At that time, the Sunshine State's landscape was mainly rural and drivers needed to cover long distances.
1957 to 1973
Interstate 10 Opens in North Florida - The I-10 corridor began in Duval County in 1957 and ended in Madison County in 1973. It provided an east-west route that connected Jacksonville with Santa Monica California.