Oregon Department of Transportation

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Oregon Department of Transportation
Oregon Department of Transportation (logo).svg
Agency overview
Preceding agencies
  • Oregon State Highway Commission
  • Oregon State Highway Department
Headquarters355 Capitol Street NE, Salem, Oregon 97301-3871
Agency executive
  • Kris Strickler, Director
Parent agencyOregon Transportation Commission

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is a department of the state government of the U.S. state of Oregon responsible for systems of transportation. It was first established in 1969.[1] It had been preceded by the Oregon State Highway Department which, along with the Oregon State Highway Commission, was created by an act of the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 1913.[2] It works closely with the five-member Oregon Transportation Commission (the modern name of the Highway Commission) in managing the state's transportation systems.

The Oregon Transportation Commission, formerly the Oregon State Highway Commission, is a five-member governor-appointed government agency that manages the state highways and other transportation in the U.S. state of Oregon, in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Transportation.


ODOT headquarters in Salem
Incident response truck in Salem
Transient camp deterrent boulders installed by ODOT in 2019 at Portland, Oregon

The first State Highway Commission was created on August 12, 1913, and was composed of Governor Oswald West, Secretary of State Ben W. Olcott and Treasurer Thomas B. Kay. On January 12, 1915, James Withycombe became Governor and replaced Oswald West on the commission. The 1917 Oregon Legislative Assembly redesigned the State Highway Commission, with citizens appointed to replace the elected officials.

The new commissioners held their first meeting on March 6, and the commission was then known as the Oregon Highway Division. As Oregon's transportation needs started to grow, the division expanded and, in 1919, it employed their first State Bridge Engineer, Conde McCullough.


By 1920, Oregon had 620 miles (998 km) of paved roads and 297.2 miles (478.3 km) of plank roads for a population of 783,389 and, by 1932, the work that had been started on the Oregon Coast Highway (also known as U.S. Route 101) in 1914 was completed, except for five bridges, which meant greater responsibility for the division.[3][4] This work was complete when the construction of the bridges over the Yaquina, Alsea, Siuslaw, and Umpqua rivers and Coos Bay were completed, closing the last gaps in the highway. By 1940, the highway division was managing more than 7,000 miles (11,300 km) of state, market and country roads in Oregon, with nearly 5,000 miles (8,000 km) being hard-surfaced.

ODOT Highway Division Regions

In 2018, the city government of Portland, Oregon and ODOT entered into an intergovernmental agreement in which the Portland city government takes over the cleanups of transient camps on ODOT right-of-way in select locations in Portland in exchange for payments from ODOT.[5][6]

In 2019, ODOT installed boulders at five locations in Portland to deter transient camps around the freeways. The installations have received support from neighbors while criticized by homeless advocacy groups.[7]

Exploding whale incident

On November 12, 1970, the department was tasked with disposing of a dead sperm whale that washed ashore on the beach near Florence. The department exploded the dead whale using half a ton of dynamite to blast it off the beach. Pieces of dead whale went everywhere including the beach, bystanders, a parking lot and a park, severely damaging at least one car.[8] Willamette Week reports "The decision to publicly dynamite an enormous mammal has become one of Oregon's all-time most bizarre moments."[8]

This became known as the "exploding whale incident".[9]


  • John Fulton — July 1, 1969 – December 31, 1970
  • George Baldwin — January 1, 1971 – June 30, 1971
  • Sam Haley — July 1, 1971 – July 8, 1973
  • George Baldwin — July 9, 1973 – April 30, 1976
  • Bob Burco — May 1, 1976 – January 8, 1979
  • Fred Klaboe — January 9, 1979 – December 31, 1981
  • Fred Miller — January 1, 1982 – February 16, 1987
  • Bob Bothman — February 17, 1987 – June 30, 1991
  • Don Forbes — July 1, 1991 – 1995
  • Grace Crunican — 1996 – 2001
  • Bruce Warner — 2001 – 2005
  • Matthew Garrett — December 19, 2005 – June 30, 2019
  • Kris Strickler — September 2019 – Present


  • 1913 - "Get Oregon Out of the Mud"[10]
  • 1957 - "Building Oregon Thru Better Highways"
  • 1958 - "Oregon Freeways...Symbol of 2nd Century Progress"
  • 1961 - "Freeways are Easier"
  • 1967 - "Fifty Years of Building Better Highways in Oregon" (not technically correct; the department was formed in 1913)
  • 1978 - "Keep Oregon Green and in the Black"
  • 1986 - "ODOT on the Move"
  • 2006 - "The way to go!"

See also


  1. ^ History of ODOT
  2. ^ Department of Transportation: Agency History, Oregon Blue Book.
  3. ^ "Background Brief on Roads and Highways" (PDF). Oregon State Legislature. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 30, 2023. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  4. ^ Places, Oregon; Manning, Clyde E.; Minor, Rick (2019). "Building the Oregon Coast Highway: An Oral History of the 1931–1932 Work Camp at the Cape Creek Bridge, Lane County, Oregon". Oregon Historical Quarterly. 120 (1): 102–123. doi:10.5403/oregonhistq.120.1.0102. ISSN 0030-4727.
  5. ^ Sparling, Zane. "ODOT to pay Portland for homeless camp clean-ups". Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  6. ^ Harbarger, Molly (December 20, 2018). "Portland taking over homeless camp cleanups for ODOT". oregonlive. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  7. ^ Kruzman, Kruzman (July 4, 2019). "Portland's homeless campers face new obstacle: piles of boulders". oregonlive. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  8. ^ a b June, Sophia (October 3, 2016). "There Is Now Better Footage of That Time Oregon Blew Up a Whale With Dynamite". Willamette Week. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  9. ^ "Exploding Whale Memorial Park to Honour Blubber That Was Blown to Bits in US 50 Years Ago". News18. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  10. ^ Business Services History Center Archived January 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine

External links