Wayne County Department of Public Services

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The Wayne County Department of Public Services was formed in 1906 as the Wayne County Road Commission. It was the government agency in Wayne County, Michigan responsible for building and maintaining the county's roads and highways.[1]


Road commission[edit]

The Wayne County Road Commission was an "exemplary" agency in the state of Michigan, and had great involvement and influence in roadway planning more widely in the state. It became "internationally renowned for innovative ideas, sometimes breaking ground well in advance of the Michigan State Highway Department."[2]:32

The county road commission was more advanced than the state's own public works department in several respects. It had long had its own in-house construction group to built bridges, before the state copied that practice in 1924.[2]:10 It adopted one or more bridge types before the state did.

Its first commissioners were Edward N. Hines, Cassius R. Benton, and automobile manufacturer Henry Ford. While the commission was authorized by an 80% positive vote of county voters in a 1906 referendum, it was controversial and there was a Michigan state supreme court case pressed which found it unconstitutional. Commissioners Benton and Ford quit, but commissioner Hines persisted and led the commission through reorganization getting around the obstacles.[2]:33 Hines was a commissioner continuously from 1906 to 1938.

Hines is credited with the idea of putting a painted line down a roadway's center to divide traffic, and other innovations that were later widely adopted.

The commission worked systematically, and it became a model to others. "As early as 1911, the commission felt confident in asserting that 'Wayne County is coming to be known as a leader in the good roads movement, and the Mecca of those upon whose shoulders devolves the duty of solving traffic problems.' Within a few years, the county hosted delegations of engineers from around the United States, as well as from a number of other countries, including Britain, Japan, Australia, and Borneo.[footnote omitted] The commission's international prominence was enhanced by its advocacy of concrete as a road material. It claimed credit for constructing the country's first mile of concrete-paved rural highway, a section of Woodward Avenue" just outside the Detroit city limits.[2]

The county road commission led in calling, during the 1930s, for superhighways in the state to relieve congestion; it worked to build superhighways in conjunction with the state plan that emerged, and which the county road commission endorsed.

The state relied upon the Wayne County Road Commission to provide expertise to build the Willow Run Expressway, during World War II as many state staff went into military service.[2]:18 The state hired the county road commission to supervise the building of the Lodge Expressway.[2]:27

A number of the county road commissions' works are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[2][3]

Merger into county government[edit]

The county road commission was merged into the general county government,[2]:42 becoming the Roads Division of the Department of Public Services.[4]

Notable road works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff. "Department of Public Services". Wayne County Department of Public Services. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Roise, Charlene K.; Fraser, Clayton B. (August 1998). "National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation: Historic Highway Bridges of Michigan, 1875-1948 / Wayne County: An Exemplary Road Commission, 1906-1948". National Park Service. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010. 
  4. ^ Roads Division. "History of the Wayne County Road Commission". Wayne County Department of Public Services. Retrieved October 18, 2012. 

External links[edit]