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Minnesota Transportation History (Minnesota Department of Transportation): Get Started

Minnesota Transportation History - General

Effective highway history research involves consulting a variety of resources both online and in print. Many newspaper indexes are available that date back to the earliest highway projects in Minnesota and around the United States, as well as government records, books and reports. Many full-text resources are available on the Internet and through the MnDOT Library. This guide is a collection of relevant and useful resources our librarians have selected to assist you in your research. 

Milestones in Minnesota Transportation History

  • 1905 - The Legislature creates the State Highway Commission to build roads and bridges.
  • 1917 - The State Highway Commission is abolished. The Legislature creates the Department of Highways
  • 1920s - The Highway Commissioner won a state constitutional amendment allocating gas taxes solely to build and maintain roads & A constitutional amendment is adopted to create a system of 70 trunk highways.
  • 1921 - The Legislature gives the Highway Department a mandate to acquire right of way; locate, construct, improve and maintain trunk highways; let necessary contracts; buy needed material and equipment; and expend necessary funds.
  • 1944 - The Federal Aid Highway Act authorized funding for postwar programs to improve secondary rural and urban roads.
  • 1945 - The Highway Department creates the State Aid Division to work with Minnesota's cities and counties.
  • 1956 - Congress enacted laws that set up funding for the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Minnesota voters approved a constitutional amendment to distribute state road user funds. The percentages established were 62% state, 29% county and 9% municipal.
  • 1969 - The Legislature established the Department of Public Safety. The Highway Patrol and Drivers License Bureau transfer from the Highway Department to Public Safety.
  • 1976 - The Minnesota Department of Transportation was created and assumed the activities of the Departments of Aeronautics and Highways, plus transportation-related sections of the State Planning Agency and the Public Service Department.
  • Today - In addition to roads and bridges, MnDOT develops and implements policies, plans and programs for aeronautics, freight and passenger carriers, ports and waterways, public transit, alternative transportation (bicycling), and railroads.

A Brief History of MnDOT. 



Library Resources

Know Your Sources

Primary Sources
A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources.

Secondary Sources
Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, analyze, evaluate, summarize or otherwise process primary sources. Examples of secondary source materials include newspaper articles, book or movie reviews, and scholarly journal content that discuss someone else's original research. 

Maps & Construction Logs

Map of opening dates of Interstate highway segements in Minnesota  

Historic Minnesota highway maps published from 1919 to 2009

Highway Construction Project Logs
*Searching the Construction Project Logs
Select the county you wish to search to find the route number that you want and select the control section . A control section is a numbering system MnDOT uses to keep track of segments of roads. Once you open a particular control section project log, you'll see a graphical representation of the history of that road segment and sub-segments including when it was built and when certain maintenance activities were performed.

Authors & Contributors

MnDOT Library

​MnDOT Library

Moving Knowledge
Sheila Hatchell, Library Director
Jim Byerly, Electronic Resources Librarian
Karen Neinstadt, Reference and Outreach Librarian
Marilee Tuite, Reference and Digital Services Librarian

Qin Tang, Technical Services Librarian
Email Us

Tel:  651-366-3791 • 
Fax:  651-366-3789 

MnDOT Library

Mission: MnDOT Library advances your knowledge with timely, direct,and cost-effective connections to the
information you need to provide
the highest quality transportation systems.

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