VDOT History Highlights

The General Assembly establishes the first State Highway Commission.

Virginia's first motor vehicle registration and licensing law takes effect.

The General Assembly earmarks income from registration fees for road maintenance. Also, Congress enacts the nation's first federal-aid highway program.

The General Assembly establishes the state's first highway system, a network of 4,000 miles linking principal cities.

A three-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax is enacted to produce revenue for road construction. Voters defeat a bond issue for road construction, favoring a pay-as-you-go method.

The Department of Highways is established as a state agency.

The General Assembly creates the secondary road system, allowing counties to relinquish responsibility for local roads to the state.

Congress authorizes development of a 40,000-mile interstate system. Virginia's is to have 1,070 miles.

The state's first interstate segment is opened - the Interstate 95 bypass of Emporia.

The General Assembly authorizes the development of the state's arterial network. These are divided four-lane primary highways to connect areas not directly served by interstates.

Some Interstate 395 lanes in northern Virginia are reserved for express buses to encourage use of mass transit, setting a national precedent. Later, the lanes are opened to carpools.

1974: The department's name is changed to the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation, adding rail and public transportation to its jurisdiction.

A special session of the General Assembly expands revenue sources for transportation, including a new emphasis on airports and seaports. Legislators also expand the state transportation board from 12 to 15 members and rename the agency the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

The General Assembly creates special tax districts to finance high cost transportation improvements. Virginia's first such district is created in 1988 to upgrade a heavily congested section of Route 28 near the Dulles Airport in northern Virginia.

Legislators allow private companies to build and operate for-profit toll roads. Plans for the first such facility - an extension of the Dulles Toll Road - are approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) in 1989.

The General Assembly authorizes the issuance of $600 million in bonds for upgrading the 500-mile-long U.S. Route 58 corridor. The move is expected to promote economic development in southern and southwestern Virginia.

The General Assembly designates the secretary of transportation as chairman of the CTB. VDOT's transportation commissioner becomes vice-chairman. This increases the board to 16 members.

With the nation's interstate system nearly complete, Congress enacts the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, a new approach that emphasizes preservation and improved use of existing roads, and funding to reduce congestion and air pollution.

The General Assembly elevates VDOT's rail and public transportation division to department level, reporting directly to the secretary of transportation.

The last segment of Virginia's interstate system opens. It's a section of Interstate 295 around Richmond and Petersburg.

The Dulles Greenway opens. It's the nation's first private toll road in more than 150 years.

Congress designates 161,000 miles as the National Highway System. This includes 3,450 miles in Virginia.

The General Assembly enacts the Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA) to encourage private companies to build and operate roads and other transportation services.

The nation's first outcome-based contract for maintenance allows a private company to manage and operate some of Virginia's interstate system.

VDOT establishes the Smart Travel brand for its comprehensive, first-in-the-nation program of intelligent transportation systems.

Smart Tag electronic toll collection is introduced on the Dulles Toll Road.

TEA-21, a new funding plan, boosts Virginia's share of federal revenue by 62 percent over six years.

The first construction contract under the PPTA allows a private firm to build the Pocahontas Parkway, an 8.8-mile toll road near Richmond.

The CTB adds the director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation as a non-voting member.

The General Assembly passes the Virginia Transportation Act of 2000, which sets priorities for transportation project construction. It also provides for $3 billion in new money to accelerate construction of projects in the $10.1 billion Six-Year Improvement Program.

The first 1.7-mile section of the Smart Road opens for research and testing.

Following recommendations from Gov. James S. Gilmore’s commission on transportation policy, the General Assembly votes to allow VDOT to enter into design-build contracts with contractors who would be responsible for an entire project, not just a portion of it.

Legislators vote to allow counties to reassume responsibilities for maintaining their secondary roads if the counties so choose.

The 175-foot-high Smart Road Bridge opens, completing a two-mile test track.

The CTB approves the location for Interstate 73, a new highway through Virginia.

A cooling economy and increased costs causes Gov. Mark R. Warner to call for a “realistic and achievable” Six-Year Plan for transportation improvements. Consequently, the $10.1 billion program is cut by a third and VDOT commits to delivering it on time and on budget.

The Pocahontas Parkway, VDOT's first PPTA construction project, opens with high-speed, open-lane toll collection for vehicles with Smart Tags.

Virginia and North Carolina transportation officials approve a high-speed rail corridor from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte.

Virginia becomes one of the first states to launch 511, a traffic and travel information phone number. The voice-activated service initially covers the Interstate 81 corridor.

The Six-Year Improvement Program and Project Dashboard are made available online, allowing citizens to see which VDOT projects are on time and on budget.

VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration sign a historic streamlining agreement for an environmental study of I-81.

VDOT donates 758 acres in the Great Dismal Swamp to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The Rural Rustic Roads initiative is launched. It proves to be quick-fix paving program, saving time and money.

A cost-estimating system allows VDOT to obtain more accurate project forecasts.

The Highway Safety Corridor program is launched on key stretches of interstates. Traffic violators may receive higher fines for infractions in the corridors.

Hampton, Richmond and Virginia Beach take over management of local road construction in a legislated VDOT program called “First Cities.”

A right of way and utilities management system is developed, instantly giving managers the status of highway projects. Other state agencies purchase rights to use and adapt the software's source code.

VDOT’s Workers’ Memorial on Afton Mountain is dedicated. The granite monument recognizes more than 120 employees who died of job-related causes since the 1930s.

Virginia's Smart Tag merges with the E-ZPass network, making toll-collection seamless from Virginia to Maine.

The CTB approves VTrans 2025, Virginia’s long-range transportation plan.

A statewide 511 system for traffic and travel information is launched. Dashboard expands sixfold by showing the latest performance of all core business areas, including road maintenance, plans, studies, safety, finances, operations and environmental compliance.

Gregory A. Whirley is named acting transportation commissioner.

VDOT enters into negotiations with the private sector to improve 56 miles of interstates 95 and 395 from Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg.

Smart Tag issues its millionth transponder.

The first new span of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is dedicated.

David S. Ekern is selected to serve as VDOT’s commissioner.

VDOT meets or exceeds all project completion and budget goals for the first time.

The new Springfield Interchange opens.

VDOT commits to renewed focus on emergency response.

VDOT issues Request for Detailed Proposals for Route 460 Corridor Improvements

Gregory A. Whirley is named commissioner of highways by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

VDOT opens its statewide, 24-hour Customer Service Center.

VDOT signs an interim agreement with a private firm to develop and operate the Downtown Tunnel/Midtown Tunnel/MLK Extension.

VDOT opens the Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships.

Gov. McDonnell Announces New Program to Defray Costs of Commonwealth’s Safety Rest Areas.

New 511 mobile app is available to motorists to check out travel conditions, including real-time traffic cameras.

VDOT launches E-ZPass Flex in Northern Virginia.

Virginia becomes first state in the nation to launch rest area sponsorship program with focus on reducing distracted driving.

495 Express Lanes open in Northern Virginia.

Commonwealth signs comprehensive agreement and reaches financial close to build the new Route 460 in southeast Virginia.

Groundbreaking held fo Elizabeth River Tunnels in Hampton Roads.  Project will build a new Midtown Tunnel, rehabilitate the existing tunnel as well as the Downtown Tunnels, and extend the Martin Luther King Freeway.

The Virginia General Assembly passes a long-term transportation funding and reform package.

The Virginia 495 Express Lanes were cited as transforming travel times and emerging as a national model for how to make major transportation improvements a reality.

VDOT sponsored an on-road demonstration of automated- and connected-vehicle technologies along the I-395 express lanes with its partners from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Transurban. 

Governor McAuliffe announced SMART SCALE, a new data-driven scoring process to prioritize funding for Virginia transportation projects.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved proposal to transform I-66 inside the beltway in Northern Virginia.

The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) named VDOT as 2016 Transportation Owner of the Year, in recognition of its significant contributions in advancing the awareness, understanding and use of the design-build project delivery method.

VDOT accomplished major widening (Route 29; I-64) and extension (I-95 express lanes) projects and broke ground on the Route I-66 extension in Northern Virginia.

VDOT launched the first group of multimodal improvement projects under the new Interstate 66 Inside the Beltway Commuter Choice program. 

VDOT launched www.SmarterRoads.org, a new cloud based data portal initiative that provides free access to roadway and transportation information to entities interested in creating value-added transportation applications and products for end users. 

Historic financing agreement, made possible through crucial regional cooperation, was approved for the expansion of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT), Virginia’s largest transportation project.

VDOT and Transurban broke ground on a 10-mile extension of Interstate 95 express lanes, a project designed to create faster, more reliable travel between Washington, D.C. and Fredericksburg, VA, one of the nation’s most congested corridors.

VDOT was recognized with two National Roadway Safety awards, recognizing the agency’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan and Strategic Guardrail Management Program. 

VDOT kicked off $3.8 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project, the largest infrastructure project in Virginia’s history.

In a major energy efficiency initiative, VDOT awarded a contract to replace traditional highway lights with LED lights on key roadways.

VDOT launched the Beautify Virginia program as part of its Environmental Stewardship Initiative to support keeping Virginia’s roadways litter free.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is the winner of the Asphalt Pavement Alliance’s 2020 Perpetual Pavement Award, in recognition a section of I-81 with a long structural life and resurfacing cycle. 

VDOT received international award for Public-Private Partnerships in recognition of leadership in innovative project delivery throughout the Americas.

VDOT launched a towing and recovery incentive program on I-81 to help with quicker clearance of commercial vehicle crashes.

The newly built Jones Branch Connector, a Tysons roadway, was named 2021 Project of the Year by the American Society of Highway Engineers.


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Page last modified: April 19, 2023