Washington State Department of Transportation

Washington State Department of Transportation
Department overview
Formed September 27, 1977 (1977-09-27)[1]
Preceding agencies
  • Washington State Department of Highways
  • Washington State Aeronautics Commission
  • Washington State Toll Bridge Authority
  • Washington State Canal Commission
Type Department of transportation
Jurisdiction State of Washington
Headquarters 310 Maple Park Avenue SE
Olympia, Washington
47°02′05″N 122°53′52″W / 47.034700°N 122.897661°W / 47.034700; -122.897661Coordinates: 47°02′05″N 122°53′52″W / 47.034700°N 122.897661°W / 47.034700; -122.897661
Employees 6,318
Annual budget $5.132 billion (2015–2017)[2]
Department executive
  • Roger Millar, Acting Secretary of Transportation[3]
Child department
Website wsdot.wa.gov

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT or WashDOT) was established in 1905. The agency, led by a Secretary and overseen by the Governor, is a Washington governmental agency that constructs, maintains, and regulates the use of the state's transportation infrastructure. WSDOT is responsible for more than 20,000 lane-miles of roadway, nearly 3,000 vehicular bridges and 524 other structures. This infrastructure includes rail lines, state highways, state ferries (considered part of the highway system) and state airports[4]


WSDOT was originally founded as the Washington State Highway Board and the Washington State Highways Department on March 13, 1905, when then-governor Albert Mead signed a bill that gave $110,000 USD to fund new roads that linked the state. The State Highway Board was managed by State Treasurer, State Auditor, and Highway Commissioner Joseph M. Snow and the Board first met on April 17, 1905 to plan the 12 original state roads. The first state highway districts, each managed by a District Engineer, were established in 1918. During this period, the construction of highways began.[5]

In 1921, the State Highway Board was replaced by the Washington Highway Committee and the Washington State Highways Department became a division of the Washington State Department of Public Works. The first gas tax (1¢ per gallon) was levied and Homer Hadley started planning a pontoon bridge across Lake Washington, which would later become the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, which opened on July 2, 1940. In 1923, the State Highways Department separated from the Public Works Department and organized the first official system of highways, Washington's state road system. In 1926, the U.S. government approved the U.S. route system, which connected the country by road. 11 U.S. Routes entered Washington at the time. Later in 1929, the Highway Committee was merged with the State Highways Department. The Lake Washington Floating Bridge and the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened in 1940. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed because of winds on November 7, 1940, earning it the name Galloping Gertie.[6] On June 29, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which started the Interstate Highway System. Originally, 2 Interstates entered Washington.[7]

Starting in 1961, the Interstate Highways started to be built. There were 2 more Interstates to build and most work was not completed until the 1970s. In 1964, the Highways Department was renamed to WSDOT and the state highways were renumbered to the current system. Metro Transit was created in 1972 and work on highways continued very fast. The North Cascades Highway (SR 20) was completed in 1972 and the first HOV lanes in Washington were installed on SR 520 in 1972. The Washington State Transportation Commission was established in 1977 and the first meeting was held on September 21, 1977.[8]

On February 13, 1979, the western pontoons of the Hood Canal Bridge were swept away by a wind storm. In 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted and caused damage to many state highways, mainly SR 504. The Hood Canal Replacement Bridge opened on October 3, 1982 and the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge collapsed on November 25, 1990.[9]

In 1991, a smaller renumbering of state highways occurred. The renumbering produced some new highways and either realigned or removed highways from the system. In 1996, Sound Transit was formed and in the same year, the Washington State Transportation Commission adopted its first 20-year transportation plan. Throughout the 1990s, WSDOT focused more and more on rail systems and partnered with Amtrak to make a train route that went from Canada to Oregon, which would later become the Amtrak Cascades. The 2001 Nisqually earthquake damaged most state highways around the Seattle metropolitan area and most of the budget was turned over to the Puget Sound region to help rebuild and repair roads and bridges.[10][11]


WSDOT Regions

WSDOT divides Washington into 6 regions, the Olympic,[12] Northwest[13] Southwest,[14] North Central,[15] South Central,[16] and Eastern.[17] The Northwest Region is further divided into 3 more regions, which are King County,[18] Snohomish County,[19] and Baker (Whatcom, Skagit, Island, and San Juan counties).[20]

WSDOT is overseen by the Governor of Washington, who appoints a Secretary of Transportation that is confirmed by the state legislature. The last Secretary of Transportation was Lynn Peterson, who served on an interim basis until February 5, 2016, when her appointment under Governor Jay Inslee was rejected by the Washington State Senate during the confirmation process.[21] Deputy Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar was appointed as Acting Secretary of Transportation by Governor Inslee on February 10, 2016.[3][22]


WSDOT manages the official ferry service in Washington. WSDOT's ferry service, called Washington State Ferries, is the largest in the United States and third largest in the world.[23] Ferries had been in the Puget Sound since the 1950s.[24] There are 10 routes and 22 ferries currently operating.[25][26]


Main article: Travel Washington

WSDOT began operating the Travel Washington intercity Bus program in 2007. There are currently four lines:

Current projects

There are currently about 250 projects that WSDOT is currently planning or constructing.[27] Some of the most notable projects that were recently finished include the Tacoma Narrows Bridge project, which built a second bridge adjacent to the original bridge,[28] the SR 167 HOT lanes project, which added HOT lanes over SR 167's existing HOV lanes from the SR 18 area to 180th Street,[29] and the I-5 HOV extensions project, which extended the HOV lanes in Everett from the I-5/SR 99/SR 526/SR 527 interchange to the I-5/US 2/SR 529 Spur interchange.[30]

Some of the main projects in the future include the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel,[31] the replacement of the SR 520 Evergreen Point floating bridge,[32] the ferry terminals,[33] the I-5 Crash barrier project,[34] SR 704,[35] and more.

See also


  1. Oldham, Kit (March 15, 2005). "Legislature creates Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) effective September 21, 1977.". HistoryLink. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  2. "Executive Summary". 2015-2017 Biennial Budget Request (PDF) (Report). Washington State Department of Transportation. September 2014. p. 6. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  3. 1 2 "Inslee appoints Roger Millar as Acting Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation" (Press release). Office of the Governor of Washington. February 10, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  4. WSDOT. "WSDOT Homepage". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  5. WSDOT. "WSDOT History (1905-1920)". Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  6. WSDOT. "WSDOT History (1921-1940)". Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  7. WSDOT. "WSDOT History (1941-1960)". Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  8. WSDOT. "WSDOT History (1961-1977)". Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  9. WSDOT. "WSDOT History (1978-1990)". Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  10. WSDOT. "WSDOT History (1991-2004)". Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  11. WSDOT. "WSDOT History (2005 and beyond)". Retrieved June 16, 2008.
  12. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-Olympic". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  13. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-Northwest". Archived from the original on January 26, 2007. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  14. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-Southwest". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  15. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-North Central". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  16. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-South Central". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  17. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-Eastern". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  18. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-King County". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  19. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-Snohomish County". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  20. WSDOT. "WSDOT Regions-Baker". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  21. Lindblom, Mike; O'Sullivan, Joseph (February 5, 2016). "State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson ousted by Senate Republicans". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  22. O'Sullivan, Joseph (February 10, 2016). "Inslee appoints acting transportation chief". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  23. "An Introduction To The Largest Ferry System In The Nation" (PDF). Washington State Ferries, Customer and Community Relations. May 2006. p. 2. Retrieved April 18, 2008.
  24. History of Washington State Ferry system, WSDOT, Retrieved March 15, 2008
  25. Washington State Ferries - Ferries - Vessels, WSDOT, Retrieved May 6, 2013
  26. 2004-2005 Official State Highway Map, Washington State Department of Transportation, Retrieved March 15, 2008
  27. WSDOT. "WSDOT Projects". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  28. WSDOT. "Tacoma Narrows Bridge Project". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  29. WSDOT. "SR 167 HOT Lanes Project". Archived from the original on July 14, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  30. WSDOT. "I-5 HOV Project". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  31. WSDOT. "Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  32. WSDOT. "SR 520 Bridge Replacement". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  33. WSDOT. "Washington State Ferries". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  34. WSDOT. "I-5 Marysville Median Barrier". Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  35. WSDOT. "SR 704- The Crossbase Highway". Retrieved July 15, 2008.

Further reading

External links

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