The North Carolina State Highway Commission, established in 1915, quickly grew into a large agency with authority and funding to improve and maintain the state's extensive system of highways.
The Commission first expanded in the late 1910s. Its engineers worked closely with the officials of the federal Bureau of Public Roads (predecessor to the Federal Highway Administration) to build highways and bridges using guidelines for materials and designs developed for federal-aid projects. In 1921 Gov. Cameron Morrison and the state legislature backed a $50 million bond for a state-owned and maintained highway system, launching North Carolina's first organized statewide road and bridge improvement campaign.
North Carolina was a leading progressive Southern state because of its pioneering stance on centralized control of highways, as well as other public services such as schools, prisons and public health. By 1931 the State Highway Commission had taken over more than 57,000 miles of roadway and 18,000 bridges — all of the public roads and bridges outside of incorporated towns and cities. No highway department in the nation had authority over more mileage of public roadways.
The State Highway Commission was nationally recognized for its success in managing rapid growth and its ability to improve and, particularly, maintain its vast highway system. North Carolina became known as the “Good Roads State," with its roads and bridges widely regarded as the best in the South.
The organizational development of the State Highway Commission is one of the most significant stories in North Carolina's modern transportation history. The state-built bridges in the Historic Bridge Inventory reflect this record of accomplishment.