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BT's Detroit Road Guide

Lost in Detroit? This may not help but it's still interesting. To view an exit list for a freeway, just click on the name.

"Super Roads"

Woodward Avenue

The Main St. of Detroit, Woodward starts from Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit and proceeds NNW where it opens into a loop around downtown Pontiac. One of three "super roads" in Detroit as it links Detroit to Pontiac.

 

Gratiot Avenue

Another one of SE Michigan's longest streets. The route that is marked M-3 actually begins SW of Detroit as Fort St. and twists and turns onto 2 other streets before joining Gratiot. Gratiot forks off of Woodward and then runs primarily Northeast for its entire route. M-3 officially ends in New Baltimore but Gratiot continues on to Port Huron, thus making it "super road" #2.

 

Grand River Avenue

Formerly US-16, Grand River Ave. is another road that forks off of Woodward. Grand River connects the two most important cities in Michigan, connecting the most populous city Detroit with Michigan's capitol, Lansing. The designation M-5 splits off of Grand River as M-5 turns into a freeway at Middlebelt Rd. and then turns northward at the I-275/I-696/I-96 interchange. This swing in direction called for huge signs that note "M-5 east becomes M-5 north" and the opposite in the other direction. The hope is that M-5 will eventually link up with I-75 but a lot of protest and complaints have already turned what the state wanted to be a full fledged freeway into a high speed 5 lane boulevard. Current plans have the highway cut off at Pontiac trail as the state figures out how to connect it to I-75, if at all. A golf course, several lakes and homes are likely to stop advancement for quite some time. Grand River for the most part runs next to I-96 except where it crosses to the north side at Brighton. It runs into downtown Lansing to make it "super road" #3.

 

State Funded Freeways

Davison Freeway

This short freeway was intended as a downtown by-pass from I-96 to Mound Rd. Construction began in the middle with the connection of M-10 and I-75. The project was never finished as a city mandate ordered that no new mileage of highway be constructed in Detroit. M-8 extends a little past I-75 just short of City Airport as a result today. The stretch got a makeover in the late 90's and a exit to Woodward was also added.

 

Lodge Freeway

This highway was originally US-10 before the big change of 1987, which truncated many US routes in Michigan and brought forth state routes it their place. M-10 is one of two freeways that lead to downtown Detroit. (For more on this, see the I-375 listing) The Lodge runs NW in Detroit and is dubbed the Northwestern highway after the "mixing bowl" (I-696/US-24/M-10 interchange) and turns into a three lane boulevard. At one point in time, the Lodge also carried the name of the James Couzens freeway. Although the name no longer is official, the service drives still indicate the name in some areas. Speculation is that M-10 will be extended to M-5 but with a shopping center in the way and lack of interest from MDOT, M-10 will still end at Orchard Lake Rd. and 14 Mile Rd. Recent plans include this intersection as a part of a construction project to replace busy intersections with roundabouts.

 

Ann Arbor-Plymouth Freeway

No official name has been given to this 22 mile highway which runs from the north side of Ann Arbor to the Plymouth area, where it turns into I-96 EAST. The former M-14 designation ran along Plymouth road into Detroit. In fact, a stretch of Plymouth road from Beech Daly Rd. to M-39 still have M-14 signs present although the route officially ends at I-275. Because of it's designation as a state freeway, many people speculate that once interstate upgrades are complete, MDOT will push for a interstate designation, most likely I-394. Lack of interest at MDOT most likely will keep this from happening.

 

Southfield Freeway

One of the major arteries of Detroit, The Southfield is one of the more used freeways at any given point of the day. This freeway is notorious for back-ups due to only three lanes. Usually the back-ups are due to merging traffic from I-96 at the classic "stacked diamond" interchange. The freeway runs from M-10 to I-94 whereas the M-39 designation runs from M-10 to M-85. Otherwise, the road is simply known as Southfield Rd. where no freeway exists.

 

U.S. Routes in Detroit

Michigan Avenue

US-12 has it's official eastern terminus at Campus Martius in Downtown Detroit. It turns into a boulevard in Dearborn and stays that way until it hooks up with I-94. Interestingly enough, this was one of Detroit's first highways in the sense that it started out as a forest trail. Known as the Great Sauk Trail, it was a major route used by native Americans long before Europeans set foot in the area. As the years passed and more and more people used it, it was upgraded accordingly. In the 1940's, it was being considered as a freeway and construction was already underway before the interstate system was proposed. As the system began construction, plans were made to include the sections already made into the I-94 route. As a result, US-12 sits right by I-94 like a brother and the two cross many times before they both enter Indiana. Many towns in Michigan popped up along the route simply because it was there.

 

Ann Arbor-Standish Freeway

OK! If you've looked at a map of Michigan, you'll know that US-23 lies nowhere near Detroit. It's not that it's in Detroit that matters, it's what it helps do to traffic in Detroit that counts. This freeway is considered a MAJOR Detroit bypass for anyone who is traveling through Flint and Toledo, OH and doesn't want to go through the mess that is Detroit roads. It's also popular with people in the western suburbs who travel north on vacation. As anyone in Michigan knows, I-75 (which runs in tandem with US-23 from Flint to Standish) is always a mess northbound on Friday and Southbound on Sunday. US-23 is almost NEVER backed up south of Flint once I-75 splits off.

 

Telegraph Road

So named because of old telegraph wires that used to line the distance of the road, Telegraph is a boulevard from it's I-75 connector freeway on into Pontiac. As many road enthusiasts know, two even digits in a national route number means the route runs east-west. For much of it's overall length, US-24 does run East-West until it reaches Toledo, OH where it turns northward and MDOT signs it as a North-South route to avoid confusion. Many other Telegraph Rds. exist in other cites where telegraph wires used to run. This is one of the reasons why Telegraph runs virtually straight for most of it's length.

 

State Routes

Van Dyke Avenue

This road originates in Detroit and heads north and north and north, finally turning east into Bad Axe, and then runs north on into Port Austin, the city at the tip of "the thumb." Part of M-53 is freeway from 18 Mile Rd. to just after 27 Mile Rd. Oddly enough, Van Dyke Rd., which splits off of M-53 at 18 Mile, doesn't join back with M-53 until after the city of Romeo. Plans were for the stretch of highway to be part of the "Mound Rd. freeway" which never materialized. Plans are to extend the highway along 18 Mile (which would have followed the original plans of the freeway) and connect it to Mound Rd. The Mound Rd. exit at I-696 was built with this freeway in mind. The "Mound Rd. freeway" was to extend into Detroit with connections to M-8 and I-94. Rumor is it if the planned extension is built, Mound Rd. would carry the M-53 route into Detroit and not Van Dyke.

 

Hall Road

Another road that never enters Detroit, but is a vital part of it's system, M-59 starts out as Highland Rd., beginning at the I-96 exit west of Howell and running west. The name remains the same until it turns south and into Pontiac. Once it crosses US-24, It becomes Huron St., and runs right through downtown. Shortly after the Woodward loop, it turns into highway and runs to Van Dyke, where it becomes a boulevard and named Hall Rd. The boulevard ends at Gratiot and the M-59 designation ends at I-94. Hall rd. runs for a little bit more and turns right into the Selfridge ANG base. Until recently, Hall Rd. was a congested, dangerous undivided 4 lane road until major upgrades where made from Mound Rd. to Gratiot. Also, M-59 used to run with Gratiot into New Baltimore until the upgrades on Hall Rd. were completed, as well as a refurbished and redesigned I-94 exit was also completed. These upgrades were necessary to the area as urban sprawl of the metro area continues to push northward.

 

Fort Street

Fort St. starts out as Fort Rd. off of Huron River Dr. near I-75 exit 26. It runs parallel to I-75 for 2 miles, turns north, and runs into M-85, which starts at I-75 exit 28. Fort Rd. then turns into Allen Rd. and Fort St. goes on to the Northeast. M-85 ends at I-75 exit 43 where Schaefer Hwy. is as well. Fort St. continues to follow I-75 parallel in most areas and picks up the M-3 designation before running into downtown.

 

Groesbeck Highway

M-97 starts off of M-3 and follows Gunston Ave., turns north and follows Hoover St. until turning into Groesbeck just short of 8 Mile Rd. Groesbeck continues mostly Northeast until it reaches Hall Rd. and then becomes North St., which runs north (duh) until it crosses the Macomb - St. Clair country line and ends in the town of Berville. Groesbeck got its namesake from a former governor who was an early supporter of road construction in Michigan.

 

8 Mile Road

To many locals, Woodward is the official "main street" of Detroit, but after Eminem's recent movie, it could just as easily be 8 Mile. 8 mile, as well as all of the other mile streets in the area, is so named because if one was to stand directly north of downtown Detroit, each mile street would be that far north of downtown. Thus, 8 mile is 8 miles from downtown directly north of downtown. M-102 begins at Vernier Rd. at Mack Ave. It continues for 1.5 miles Northwest, then turns along 8 mile for the rest of its length. M-102 used to run onto Grand River Ave. and into the I-696/I-275/I-96 interchange until the M-5 extension was proposed, planned, and constructed. M-5 ended at 8 mile until then so the two have swapped positions in recent times. Among other things that 8 Mile may be known for is the line that separates the northern suburbs from Detroit, the boundary between Wayne and Oakland counties, as well as the baseline for the township and range system used in Michigan. This is why 8 mile is also known as Baseline Rd.

 

Ford Road

Ford Rd. gets its namesake NOT from Henry Ford himself, but his father William Ford who first settled in the Dearborn area and owned farm land where Ford Rd. and Greenfield Rd. Intersect, which is still owned by the Ford family, albeit through the Ford Motor Company. Ford Rd. was first proposed as a route from Detroit to Jackson long before I-94 was proposed. M-153 starts at M-14 exit 10 and runs east into Dearborn right in the heart of the Fairlane district. M-153 ends at Wyoming Ave. while Ford Rd. turns into McGraw St. Hockey enthusiasts know McGraw St. with Grand River Ave. to be the corner where Olympia Stadium used to be. Olympia was the first home to the Detroit Red wings before they moved to present day Joe Louis Arena.

 

Interstates

Fisher - Chrysler Freeway

I-75 is one of the staples of Michigan with almost 400 miles of length within the state, stopping in such cities as Sault St. Marie, Mackinaw City, Gaylord, Grayling, Bay City, Saginaw, Pontiac, Detroit, and Monroe; just to name a few. Once I-75 enters the metro area from the south, it is known as the Fisher Fwy. Once I-75 passes downtown Detroit, is is named the Chrysler. (For more on this see the I-375 listing) Running through the heart of Detroit, I-75 sees most of the traffic in the area on any given day. I-75 is also considered one of the main shipping lines through the state. For most of it's construction, I-75 was built in chunks, leaving gaps and detours in many places along its route. The last of these gaps was a 20 mile section in Georgia completed in the 1970's. One of the more fantastic views of Detroit is going north over the Rouge River bridge, albeit with the industrial factories in the immediate foreground. Another highlight of I-75 is the 5 mile Mackinaw Bridge. Completed in 1957, it connects the lower peninsula to the upper peninsula and separates Lake Michigan from Lake Huron at the Straits of Mackinaw. For most of its length, I-75 is also known as the American Legion Memorial Hwy.

 

Ford Freeway

First considered as Ford Rd., then Michigan Ave. (US-12), the Ford Fwy. was one of the first highways in Michigan to be proposed. As the thought of a highway linking Detroit to Jackson was growing in popularity, the state began construction and signed it as US-12. Then came the proposal of the interstate system and I-94 was incorporated in the sections that were already built. I-94 goes through cites such as Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit, and ending at Port Huron with service to Canada via the Blue Water Bridge. Because I-94 is so old, it is need of major repairs and upgrades. One of the ideas being tossed around loosely is to widen I-94 in is length in Detroit to more lanes and possibly turn it into the Express - Local configuration that I-96 has. (For more on this, see the I-96 listing) One thing is for sure, I-94 is in need to better accommodate higher traffic volumes and clear up a few headaches. No cost to such a project has been seriously talked about but it is clear that it will be one of the most expensive highway projects in US history.

 

Jeffries Freeway

I-96 has a very special distinction. It is one of the few interstates that are actually INTRAstates, meaning that it never leaves the state its in, in this case, Michigan. Making a run from Muskegon to Detroit, with such cites as Grand Rapids, Lansing, Novi, and Livonia on it's route, I-96 was built mainly to upgrade Grand River, which used to be US-16. Original plans had I-96 following the Grand River route into Detroit but it was found to be more feasible at its current location. This is why there is a small stretch of highway from the I-275/I-96/I-696 interchange to Middlebelt Rd. Original plans also had interchanges in central Livonia more like the ones found along the I-275/I-96 corridor being more rural in design. Politicians didn't like the idea so the design was changed to a depressed freeway which exists today. One of the more unique features of I-96 is the Express lanes that run from Outer Drive to Davison Ave. 3 lanes run at 65 MPH with hardly any exits while another 2 dubbed the local lanes run at 55 MPH and service most of the major roads with exits. Another interesting part of I-96 is its connection with Davison Ave. Davison was supposed to connect to I-96 as freeway but the city decided not to go forth with that plan. As a result, the interchange looks like a freeway but end at a light and turns into a divided highway. Loose talk is to complete this connection but feasibility for the use hasn't come up yet.

 

Novi-Newport Freeway

As the first even digit indicates, I-275 was made to be a loop of I-75 around Detroit. Its current route only reflects half of its intended route. The current section was opened in 1970 and was meant to be extended through commerce township and on back to I-75 northwest of Pontiac near Clarkston. Because of the ever expanding urban sprawl, this connection may never happen. M-5 was built with this idea in mind and was intended as an freeway but several people in the area threatened to sue with their high dollar lawyers and so the idea was cut back severely. On the flipside, people in the other areas complain that the area is too hard to access with no major highway running through it. The whole situation has MDOT in a big pickle. They have revisited ideas such as extending M-10 to meet up with M-5. Although this idea may make matters worse, it's the best MDOT can do without skyrocketing the cost by fighting lawsuits and buying out people. If I-275 is ever finished, it won't be in the near future.

 

Chrysler Freeway

Having Deja Vu? Actually you're not and here's why. I-375 is the ghost of a long lost plan. I-75 was originally planned to run right in the smack of downtown. The Federal Government didn't like to have an interstate run so close to a river and so I-75 was moved northward where it lies today. I-375 was already constructed at the time and so a spur into downtown remained. Because of the way it meets up with I-75 north, straight through, the Chrysler stuck with the stretch of road and only the signs were mixed around. The connection if one was to go through the intersection from the Fisher would be onto Gratiot Ave. Seeing as how the Fisher does kind of "end" at the intersection and the Chrysler doesn't, the name changes and I-75 is re-orientated to make the connection work. Another plan has I-375 going a little farther south to service the GM headquarters at the Renaissance Center. This would place the Chrysler even closer to the river but it would null out the big bend I-375 makes into downtown. GM has expressed interest in the idea as a way to further spruce up their new home. Road enthusiasts are drooling over the plan because it would be the only interstate that would essentially loop upon it self, making the southbound lanes turnaround to become the northbound lanes! Another great thing about the tiny I-375 is if you were to enter downtown via M-10, then stay on Jefferson and on into I-375, you can get a great view of downtown by taking the ramp from I-375 to I-75 SOUTH. Just look left at the height of the ramp. Ford Field and Commerica Park will be in the foreground and all of the downtown buildings will be more or less visible in the background.

 

Reuther Freeway

This freeway was completed in 1989 and was built in three stages. The first stage ran from the I-275/I-96/I-696 interchange to the "mixing bowl" (I-696/US-24/M-10) interchange. Traffic was then diverted onto M-10 and on into Detroit. The second stage was from I-94 to I-75, leaving a gap in the middle of the route. The interesting thing about this stage is the I-75/I-696 interchange. Even before I-696 was connected to this interchange, I-75 was built with I-696 in mind. This is one of the interchanges that was built before hand and actually put to its intended use. Unfortunately, the Mound Rd. interchange is a different story. After the abandonment of the Mound Rd. freeway, the interchange became a waste. Stage three of I-696 has some of the most unique features of any freeway in Detroit. It has three tunnel sections between Southfield Rd. and Coolidge Hwy. Also, the Woodward exit is one of the most unique in Detroit. Woodward goes underneath I-696 and all service drives to I-696 and M-1 are above like normal. This clears up any major traffic snarls by letting Woodward move freely instead of having to deal with a bunch of extra lights and several lanes of turning traffic. Once the third section was completed, it immediately had an impact on the highways of Detroit. The northern suburbs had a way to get across with out using surface streets and the much needed connection from I-96 to I-94 was in use. In fact, it might have worked too well. I-696 gets 10 mile backups going west into the I-96/I-275/I-696 interchange! Stop and go traffic also occurs in the opposite direction with the mixing bowl and I-75 interchanges. Even so, I-696 has its vital part of the Detroit system.

 

BONUS!

While the road system of Detroit is vast, it is also insufficient and inefficient. For years, some advocates have argued for a mass transit system in Detroit. Unfortunately, all that has really been accomplished was the completion of the People Mover in 1987. One day, I asked myself, "what would a Detroit mass transit system look like?" After a few months I finalized the drawing and introduced it at a meeting in Dec. 2005. I leave it open to suggestions and critique in the hopes that one day, we can move forward and start this desperately needed plan. Without further ado, I give you:

THE DETROIT MASS TRANSIT PLAN

 

BIG thanks go to Michigan State Highways for providing some of the information and images featured on this page

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