State Highway Department / Horatio Earle
State Highway Department
Created in 1905, the State Highway Department, the precursor to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), revolutionized U.S. highway travel. Working with the Wayne County Road Commission, the agency paved the nation's first mile of concrete rural highway
on Woodward Avenue in Detroit in 1909. It responded to growing automobile tourism by opening the first state-operated information center
near New Buffalo in 1935. During World War II the state's first four-lane divided expressway carried workers from the Detroit area to Ford?s Willow Run bomber plant
in Ypsilanti. In 1973 MDOT expanded to include all transportation programs: ports, buses, aeronautics, marine, railroads, and non-motorized transportation.
In 1905, the year the State Highway Department was created, Michigan roads were quagmires of sand, mud, and clay that trapped horse-drawn vehicles and early automobiles alike. Bicycle clubs, such as the League of American Wheelmen, led the effort to "reform" roads nationwide. In Michigan, the first state highway commissioner, Horatio 'Good Roads' Earle (1855-1935), a bicyclist himself, vowed to conquer 'The Mighty Monarch Mud.' A former state senator, Earle served as state highway commissioner until 1909. Known as 'the Father of Good Roads,' Earle helped open the state to commerce and tourism. Monuments were erected in Cass City and Mackinaw City in his honor. Although appreciative, Earle stated, "The monument I prize most is not measured by its height, but its length in miles."