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Public Law 1902, chapter 982, established a State Board of Public Roads. The law directed the state’s governor to appoint a commissioner, an appointment that required the consent of the senate. The Board’s main purpose was to undertake work for the development of a state highway system by making recommendations to the General Assembly for" relocating, re-grading, or improving the main highways of the state..." The Board was directed to present a comprehensive plan and report to the General Assembly by 1903. The board was also responsible for producing maps and plans showing the proposed locations and grades and proposed improvement, as well as the cost of the work. Once the General Assembly approved the plan, the board was authorized to appropriate funds for the work. The General Assembly also required that surveys and plats be produced for various types of construction and improvement work.
In 1912, shortly after a court case that involved jurisdiction over maintenance and repair of bridges situated along state highways, ( McCommiskey vs Green, Rhode Island Reports, vol. 32, May 29, 1911), the Board established a division of bridges, which was responsible for the supervision of those state bridges "lying in any highway or highways which have been done by the state under the supervision of the board..." (PL 1912, ch. 846.)
In 1935, the functions of the Board of Public Roads were transferred to the Division of Roads and Bridges within the newly created Department of Public Works.