The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is a government department in the U.S. state of California. Its mission is to improve mobility across the state. It manages the state highway system and is actively involved with public transportation systems within the state. The department falls under the state cabinet-level California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.
Due to the state's weak fiscal condition and corrupt politics, little progress was made until 1907, when the Legislature replaced the Department of Highways with the Department of Engineering, within which there was a Division of Highways. The voters approved a $18 million bond issue for the construction of a state highway system in 1910 and the first Highway Commission was convened in 1911. On August 7, 1912, the Department broke ground on its first construction project, the section of El Camino Real between South San Francisco and Burlingame (now part of California State Route 82). 1912 also saw the founding of the Transportation Laboratory and the creation of seven administrative divisions (the ancestors of the 12 district offices that exist today).
In 1913, the Legislature started requiring vehicle registration and allocated the resulting funds to support regular highway maintenance, which began the next year.
In 1921, the Legislature turned the Department of Engineering into the Department of Public Works.
In late 1972, the Legislature approved a reorganization (suggested by a study initiated by Governor Ronald Reagan), in which the Department of Public Works was merged with the Department of Aeronautics to become the modern Department of Transportation.