Our history

Find out more about our history including working on our roads, the development of road safety strategies and how we evolved into the organisation we are today.

The first road

The first 'road' to be built in Victoria by European settlers was on Phillip Island, two centuries ago. The project manager was the commander of HM Brig Lady Nelson - John Murray. Murray was surveying the Bass Strait area on behalf of Victoria's first road authority - the Government of New South Wales – in 1801.
The New South Wales Government continued to oversee the development of Australia's south-eastern corner until 1851, when Victoria was proclaimed a Colony in its own right. By this time, its roads were in a parlous condition and the new Victorian Government tackled the issue as a matter of priority. It was spurred on by the huge increase in traffic fuelled by the gold rushes, and in 1853 an Act for making and improving roads in the Colony of Victoria was passed.

The early forerunners

A Central Road Board and District Road Boards were established, the former responsible for main roads and the latter for local roads. The State Government was to finance main roads and half the cost of local roads, while maintenance would be funded through tolls.
The Central Road Board was a great success, but nonetheless was abolished in 1857 and its responsibilities transferred to the new Board of Land and Works. These were days when rail travel was in the ascendant, taking up much of central government's time and money. The responsibility for building and maintaining roads was increasingly devolved to local authorities. Here, local interests often prevailed over the greater good, leading to patchwork development of the Colony's road system.
But roads were to undergo a resurgence – not surprisingly, driven by the ever-increasing popularity of the motor car at the turn of the century (the first motor vehicle in Melbourne appeared in 1897).
The period 1851 - 57 had shown the value of central direction on road management and in 1913 the Country Roads Board was established – the heir of the Central Road Board and a parent of VicRoads.

The Country Roads Board (CRB)

The CRB began by conducting a two-year investigation of Victoria's roads (which it found to be "anything but satisfactory", according to its first annual report). It decided which roads would be declared main roads and liaised with local governments, who were to be operational and financial partners in building and maintaining main roads.
The Board, in its first year, approved contracts for permanent works amounting in total to 94,876 pounds consisting of contracts placed directly by the Board and those placed by municipalities. The very first contract to be placed under the terms of the Country Roads Act was signed on 23 December 1913.
Interestingly, the first annual report also commented on matters such as the false economy of cheap construction, maintenance methods, setting of standards, conservation and aesthetics. These ideas helped to shape road making in Victoria and are still reflected in the approach by VicRoads today.
Its first investigations completed, the CRB hoped to begin major construction work. However, this plan was set back by the start of the First World War. The hostilities finally ended and, from 1918 to 1943, the CRB's brief evolved to include many other classes of road to its portfolio, including:
  • Developmental Roads (1918)
  • State Highways (1924)
  • Isolated Settlers Roads (1925)
  • Tourists' Roads (1936)
  • Forest Roads and Stock Routes (1943).
The most significant was State Highways, which were to be developed and maintained by the CRB to relieve municipalities of providing for long distance 'through traffic'.

Early developments in road safety

The earliest moves on the road safety front were the adoption of uniform road direction and danger signs by all States (except Tasmania) in 1927. However, it was almost another decade before a uniform traffic code was adopted for Melbourne (1936), with a statewide code adopted five years later in 1944.
The first road safety group was formed in 1927 - the National Safety Council (NSC) – under the auspices of the National Roads Association of Australia and the RACV. Other early safety initiatives included the appearance of traffic lights (1930) and the passage of the Motor Act 1932, which required all vehicles to have and maintain ‘in good order’ tyres, windscreen wipers, rear view mirrors and horns.

Rising road toll

Nonetheless, the road toll was continuing to rise and public concern led the RACV to organise a road safety conference in 1938. It identified a lack of public education as a major contributor to crashes. However, its plans to tackle this situation were temporarily set back by the outbreak of World War II.
Despite the efforts of the NSC there was modest improvement after the war until the establishment in 1956 of a three-member Traffic Commission to control traffic and improve road safety throughout Victoria. The Commission oversaw the introduction of many safety measures. But the road toll continued rising.

Victoria tackles the road toll

The watershed came in 1970 when Victoria became the first State in the world to introduce the compulsory wearing of seatbelts; the first of a series of radical measures that saw Victoria's road toll fall from more than 1000 fatalities per annum in 1970 to approximately 400 per annum since the early 1990's.
The same year the seatbelt legislation was debated, the Traffic Commission was abolished and replaced by the larger and more powerful Road Safety and Traffic Authority – part of the Ministry of Police and Emergency Services. This organisation oversaw the introduction in 1976 of another key safety measure: random roadside breath testing (RBT). This was another Victorian first for Australia.

Changing names

In 1982 the Road Safety and Traffic Authority was moved from the Ministry of Police and Emergency Services to the Ministry of Transport.
In 1983 the Road Safety and Traffic Authority was combined with the TRB and MRB to become the Road Traffic Authority.
The same year, the CRB changed its name to the Road Construction Authority (RCA), thereby eliminating the confusion its original name had caused for nearly 70 years!
Slowly but surely the organisations involved in Victoria's road and traffic management were converging.

VicRoads is formed

The final logical step came in 1989 when the RTA and RCA were merged to become the Road Corporation – better known to millions of Victorians by its trading name - VicRoads.

VicRoads centenary

A collection of images from our archives was shared in celebration of VicRoads Centenary 1913-2013.

Recent changes

Major Road Projects Victoria (MRPV), began in July 2018 when the delivery of major road projects that were being delivered by the Major Projects Division of VicRoads were transferred to this new body.

In April 2018 the Victorian Government announced the formation of Regional Roads Victoria (RRV), a country focused division within VicRoads.