Department of Transportation Records Guide
Agency History - 1940-1968
1941 was a busy year for transportation concerns in the Legislative Assembly. Centennial license plates for motor vehicles were planned for use in 1943 (1941 Oregon Law, Chapter 255). Motorcycles were required to have front and rear illumination for the purposes of visibility (1941 Oregon Law, Chapter 69). Logging trucks were instructed to obtain operating permits by the county courts and the State Highway Commission for trucks over fifty feet in length (1941 Oregon Law, Chapter 55).
Diverse transportation issues including interstate ferry authorization by the State Highway Commission (1943 Oregon Law, Chapter 196) and the Commission being granted authorization to construct tunnels (1943 Oregon Law, Chapter 384) were addressed in 1943. The Legislative Assembly transferred the authority of the Champoeg Provisional Government Park to the State Highway Commission (1943 Oregon Law, Chapter 128). The Legislative Assembly also addressed oversized truck and trailer permits (1943 Oregon Law, Chapter 266), and the annual transfer of money from the motor carrier transportation fund to the State Police account (1943 Oregon Law, Chapter 328).
As Oregon's focus shifted to World War II, the volume of transportation issues decreased markedly in the Legislative Assembly. Logging trucks were required to have fire-fighting equipment on board (1945 Oregon Law, Chapter 55) and the expiration of all motor vehicle licenses was extended to expire in 1947 (1945 Oregon Law, Chapter 9). The Legislative Assembly also authorized a windshield sticker for licensing purposes on motor vehicles (1945 Oregon Law, Chapter 2).
The use of Oregon beaches as a public highway regulated by the State Highway Commission with authority to monitor activity, grant access, and act accordingly in that area (1947 Oregon Law, Chapter 493). The Oregon House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 18 at the request of a federation of Oregon garden clubs to designate Highways 99 West and 99 East as 'Blue Star' highways. The blue star designation was to commemorate the Oregon men and women who served in World War II.
In 1948 the architectural firm of Whitehouse, Church, Newberry and Roehr was selected to design the new State Highway Building in Salem. The same firm had designed the Public Service Building and was involved with the design of the State Capitol.
The gas tax and automobile registration fees increased in 1949 (1949 Oregon Law, Chapters 379 and 380). That year as well Oregon became the first state to prorate registration fees of commercial vehicles based upon the miles traveled within the state (Oregon Law, Chapter 381).
The first permanent Oregon license plates were issued in 1950 with black numbers on a silver background. At that time there were 718,420 vehicles registered in Oregon. When the Legislative Assembly met in 1951, the primary transportation focus was road and highway issues. Chapter 587 outlined the right of access to state roads by adjacent property owners and Chapter 289 provided for the establishment, maintenance and operation of an arboretum and botanical garden by the State Highway Division. Emergency vehicles and funeral processions were also instructed to have flashing lights mounted on their vehicles (1951 Oregon Law, Chapter 400).
The mid 1950’s were fairly quiet for transportation issues in the Legislative Assembly. Additions to Oregon law concerning truck routes (1953 Oregon Law, Chapter 257) and highway advertising signs (1955 Oregon Law, Chapter 541) were both made.
In 1955, the State Department of Motor Vehicles was established. That action transferred some duties and personnel from the Office of the Secretary of State to the new department (1955 Oregon Law, Chapter 294). The department’s mandate included "the administration of laws relating to motor vehicle registration and licensing, dealers' business and vehicle licenses and wreckers' licenses...”. Also in 1955, speed traps were defined (1955 Oregon Law, Chapter 462) and the statute also provided for the use of "radiomicro waves" by law enforcement and the marking of all speed traps by signs. The State Highway Commission was to oversee the sign installation for Oregon State Police speed traps. The motor vehicle speed limit in 1955 was 55 mph for open highways (1955 Oregon Law, Chapter 38) trucks and school busses had a maximum speed of 45 mph and emergency vehicles were exempted from speed limits (1955 Oregon Law, Chapter 598).
The 1957 Legislative Assembly outlined state highway routes in Oregon, including the Mt. Hood and Sunset highways (1957 Oregon Law, Chapter 123). An additional fee was added to driver licenses and renewals to fund the cost of high school drivers training courses (1957 Oregon Law, Chapter 206). Another notable event of 1957 was the installation of an IBM 650 computer system by the State Highway Department making it the first computer system in Oregon State government.
The Legislative Assembly renamed the Parks Division the Parks and Recreation Division (1959 Oregon Law, Chapter 611). This reflected the division’s secondary activity of promoting recreational facilities and programs established and maintained by local governments. The legislation also created the position of state recreation director who reported to the state parks superintendent. In addition the Legislative Assembly disbanded of the Oregon Tunnel Commission (1959 Oregon Law, Chapter 30). The "Pacific Wonderland" slogan license plates issued. The slogan was based on a winning high school contest entry.
The first state scenic areas adjacent to highways was established in 1961. The Scenic Commission was formed and the members were appointed by the Governor to manage such areas (1961 Oregon Law, Chapter 614). Other issues addressed by the Legislative Assembly included private aircraft licensure (1961 Oregon Law, Chapter 107), pedestrian control measures (1961 Oregon Law, Chapter 254), and the designation of gross vehicle weight on all motor trucks, truck trailers and semi trailers (1961 Oregon Law, Chapter 255). The first bill attempting to establish the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) was introduced in the Legislative Assembly but failed to gain enough support to become law.
The severe Columbus Day storm of 1962 (October 12) caused millions of dollars of damage to the infrastructure of the State Highway Department.
The 1963 Legislative Assembly established a penalty for the discharging of bows and arrows on a railroad right of way (1963 Oregon Law, Chapter 94). Railroads were now required to seek State Highway Commission approval before changing crossings, signage, or signals (1963 Oregon Law, Chapter 118).
The "Pacific Wonderland" license plates were discontinued in 1964. In 1965 the Legislative Assembly passed legislation affecting driver responsibilities. The ‘implied consent’ legislation presumed the consent of all Oregon licensed drivers to sobriety testing. Failure to perform the test became sufficient grounds for license suspension (1965 Oregon Law, Chapter 574). A motorcycle operator's permit was established for the first time (1965 Oregon Law, Chapter 547) and the truck speed limit was increased to 50 mph (1965 Oregon Law, Chapter 415). Lastly, turn signals became required for motorists (mechanical or hand signal) as well as appropriate audible signals to effectively warn pedestrians (1965 Oregon Law, Chapter 104).
Interstate 5 opened in 1966 with four traffic lanes from Portland to the California border. Later that year, the Astoria Bridge opened for traffic and by doing so closed the last major water gap on US 101 from Mexico to Canada. The Astoria Bridge cost 24 million dollars and spans 4 miles.
The Department of Motor Vehicles computerized its records in 1967 and the gasoline tax was raised to seven cents a gallon (1967 Oregon Law, Chapter 463).