Caltrans History

Caltrans 50th Anniversary 1973 - 2023


2023 - Caltrans Marks 50th Anniversary. Fifty years ago, the State of California established a new Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to unify a wide range of transportation functions under a single entity. Since July 1973, the department has managed one of the most complex transportation systems in the nation and helped play a vital role in creating the world’s fourth largest economy.

2020- present
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge


2013 - The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge new East Span between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island opened in September, 2013.

2007 -Tanker fire destroys part of MacArthur Maze / 2 freeways closed near Bay Bridge


2007 -Caltrans oversaw the reconstruction and re-opening of approaches to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in a record 26 days following a devastating accident that compromised the structure.



1990 - State Master Plan for Transportation adopted, with a focus on reducing traffic congestion and an emphasis on expanding bus, rail and other public transit systems.

Collapsed Cypress Street Viaduct in Oakland, 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake


1989 - The massive Loma Prieta Earthquake occurred on October 17, raising awareness for the need to strengthen and retrofit state highway bridges.

Original Caltrans logo design 1973


1973 - The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) was formed to unify all transportation functions under a single department.

Construction of Interstate 80 through Sierra Nevadas, near Alta - 1961


1960 - The 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley served as impetus to build Interstate 80. Interstate 80 became the first all-weather, trans-Sierra Nevada highway and was nationally recognized as a major engineering achievement.

Interstate Highway Map - 1956


1956 - President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. Under the act, the federal government supplied 90 percent of funding for interstate highways, with the state paying the remaining 10 percent.

Opening Ceremonies for the Arroyo-Seco Parkway, 1940


1940 - The Arroyo-Seco Parkway, California and the US’ first freeway, was dedicated on December 30, 1940. This project marked the beginning of the freeway era in the Golden State.

Spectators and automobile parade celebrating opening day of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – Nov. 12, 1936.


1936 - The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge opened to traffic. The bridge represented a remarkable engineering and political achievement.

Highway building Smith River, Del Norte County - 1923


1923 - The first state gas tax was created to fund the expansion of the state highway system. Initially, the tax was set at 2 cents a gallon. Accompanying legislation also created the "Motor Vehicle Fuel Fund," with some of the money going directly to counties and other funds being deposited into the "State Highway Maintenance Fund" for maintenance, repair, widening, resurfacing, and reconstruction of state highways and roads and highways in state parks.

The first California state highway survey - 1911


1911 - The three-member California Highway Commission was created to oversee highway maintenance and construction. Legislation also provided for a state highway engineer, appointed by the governor to serve as the commission's executive officer.

Automobile travelers on a California road in May 1910.


1907 - The State Department of Engineering was created. The Department of Highways and Lake Tahoe Wagon Road Commission were placed under the control of the department.

California Bureau of Highways Buckboard Wagon - Riverside County, 1896


1895 - The Bureau of Highways was created with the appointment of the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road Commissioner and the Bureau of Highways Commissioners. The bureau studied highway needs and made recommendations for a 4,500-mile state highway system.