M-51 (Michigan highway)

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M-51 marker

M-51 highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by MDOT
Length: 40.405 mi[3] (65.026 km)
Existed: 1971[1][2] – present
Major junctions
South end: SR 933 near South Bend, IN

US 12 near Niles
M‑62 in Dowagiac

M‑152 near Dowagiac
North end: I‑94 near Paw Paw
Counties: Berrien, Cass, Van Buren
Highway system
M‑50 M‑52

M-51 is a north–south state trunkline highway in the southwestern portion of the US state of Michigan. The southern terminus is at a connection with State Road 933 across the Michigan–Indiana state line near South Bend, Indiana. From there the trunkline runs north through an interchange with US Highway 12 (US 12) into Niles along a route that was once part of Business US 12 (BUS US 12). North of Niles, the highway runs parallel to a river and a rail line through rural areas. The northern terminus is on Interstate 94 (I-94) west of Paw Paw.

There were two other highways that bore the M-51 designation. The first connected Holland and Grand Rapids with the birth of the highway system in 1919. After the creation of the United States Numbered Highway System in 1926, the number was moved to a different highway in the The Thumb area. That second highway was scaled back and later decommissioned in the 1960s. The current highway dates back to 1971 when the southern end of M-40 was rerouted, and the previous alignment was given the M-51 moniker. It was extended to the state line in 1998 to complete the current highway.

Route description[edit]

M-51 starts at the Indiana state line as a continuation of SR 933 into Michigan. The trunkline runs north through residential areas along 11th Street into Niles. On the south side of town, it meets US 12 at an interchange before continuing northward through commercial areas. Between the intersections with Maple and Main streets, M-51 splits into a one-way pair of streets to follow 12th Street northbound and 11th Street southbound. Oak Street marks the western end of BUS M-60, and M-51 turns westward on Main Street into downtown Niles. At 5th Street, the highway turns north again to exit downtown.[4][5] The highway crosses a rail line owned by Amtrak[6] before curving northeasterly near the Plym Park Golf Course. M-51 angles parallel to the Dowagiac River and the Amtrak line as the highway crosses from Berrien County into Cass County. The landscape transitions to farmland along the river, and the highway turns to the east between Sumnerville and Pokagon.[4][5]

Past Pokagon, M-51 turns back northeasterly toward Dowagiac. Once the highway reaches that city, it merges with M-62. The two highways run concurrently eastward along Spruce, Main and Division streets through downtown. M-51 turns to the north along Front Street, separating from the concurrency and leaving downtown. North of town in rural Cass County, M-51 intersects M-152 near location where the highway crosses the Dowagiac River. North of that intersection, the trunkline crosses into Van Buren County and turns to the east again. M-51 passes south of Knickerbocker Lake before turn northeasterly parallel to the rail line along Delaware Street in Decatur. after which is heads due north to I-94.[4][5]

M-51 is maintained by MDOT like other state highways in Michigan. As a part of these maintenance responsibilities, the department tracks the volume of traffic that uses the roadways under its jurisdiction. These volumes are expressed using a metric called annual average daily traffic, which is a statistical calculation of the average daily number of vehicles on a segment of roadway. MDOT's surveys in 2010 showed that the highest traffic levels along M-51 were the 20,298 vehicles daily south of US 12; the lowest counts were the 2,658 vehicles per day west of Decatur.[7] M-51 between US 12 and the state line has been listed on the National Highway System,[8] a network of roads important to the country's economy, defense, and mobility.[9]


Previous designations[edit]

When the state highway system was originally signed in 1919,[10] M-51 was initially designated from Holland to Grand Rapids. The highway ran from Zeeland along a route that used Byron Road and 32nd Avenue to connect with Port Sheldon Street in Jenison before connecting with Chicago Drive.[11] The highway's course was simplified by 1924 to use Chicago Drive between Zeeland and Jenison.[12] When the US Highway System debuted in 1926, this original M-51 was renumbered as an extension of M-21, and the M-51 number was reused for the original M-27 in The Thumb.[13][14] The highway ran from Port Huron to M-83 (now M-142) west of Harbor Beach. The designation of M-51 from Port Huron to M-46 was removed in late 1961,[15][16] and the remainder to M-142 was removed in 1965.[17][18]

Current designation[edit]

In 1971, all of M-40 south of I-94 to Niles was reassigned the designation M-51 while M-40 was shifted to the east to take over the routing of the contemporary M-119 between Paw Paw and its intersection with US 12 in Porter Township near Mottville.[1][2] The routing of M-51 was extended down to the state line in April 1998 when US 33 was decommissioned out of the state of Michigan; the extension formed a concurrency with Business US 12 (BUS US 12) through Niles in the process.[19] In early 2010, the central section of BUS US 12 was transferred to the City of Niles.[20] In doing so, the BUS US 12 designation was decommissioned in the city, removing that designation from the M-51 concurrency.[21][22]

Major intersections[edit]

County Location Mile[3] km Destinations Notes
Berrien Niles Township 0.000 0.000 SR 933 – South Bend Indiana state line
US 12 (Pulaski Highway) – Detroit, Chicago Interchange
Niles 4.629 7.450
BUS M‑60 east
Eastern terminus of BUS M-60
Cass Dowagiac 18.370 29.564 M‑62 north Western end of M-62 concurrency
19.238 30.961 M‑62 south Eastern end of M-62 concurrency
Silver Creek Township
Wayne Township
24.243 39.015 M‑152 west Eastern terminus of M-152
Van Buren Paw Paw Township 40.314–
I‑94 – Detroit, Chicago Exit 56 on I-94
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Michigan Department of State Highways (1971). Official Highway Map (Map). 1 in:14.5 mi. Section M8–N8.
  2. ^ a b Michigan Department of State Highways (1972). Official Highway Map (Map). 1 in:14.5 mi. Section M8–N8.
  3. ^ a b Michigan Department of Transportation (2009). MDOT Physical Reference Finder Application (Map). Cartography by Michigan Center for Geographic Information. http://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/prfinder/. Retrieved May 19, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Michigan Department of Transportation (2011). State Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:15 mi / 1 cm:9 km. Section M8–N8.
  5. ^ a b c Google, Inc. "Overview Map of M-51". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=M-51+N%2FS+11th+St&daddr=M-51+N%2F43rd+St%2FCo+Rd+671&hl=en&sll=42.19635,-85.963984&sspn=0.015325,0.01457&geocode=FWw3fQIdRerb-g%3BFbPtgwIdxELg-g&mra=ls&t=h&z=11. Retrieved May 19, 2012.
  6. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (January 2011) (PDF). Michigan's Railroad System (Map). http://www.michigan.gov/documents/MDOT_Official_Rail_130897_7.pdf. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  7. ^ Bureau of Transportation Planning (2008). "Traffic Monitoring Information System". Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved May 19, 2012. 
  8. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (April 23, 2006) (PDF). National Highway System, Michigan (Map). http://www.michigan.gov/documents/MDOT_NHS_Statewide_150626_7.pdf. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  9. ^ Adderly, Kevin (August 26, 2010). "The National Highway System". Planning, Environment & Realty. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved January 1, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Michigan May Do Well Following Wisconsin's Road Marking System". The Grand Rapids Press. September 20, 1919. p. 10. OCLC 9975013. 
  11. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (July 1, 1919). State of Michigan: Lower Peninsula (Map). Cartography by MSHD.
  12. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (May 14, 1924). Official Highway Condition Map (Map). Cartography by MSHD.
  13. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (November 1, 1926). Official Highway Service Map (Map). Cartography by MSHD.
  14. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (December 1, 1926). Official Highway Service Map (Map). Cartography by MSHD.
  15. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (1961). Official Highway Map (Map). Section J14–K14. (Includes all changes through July 1, 1961)
  16. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (1962). Official Highway Map (Map). Section J14–K14.
  17. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (1965). Official Highway Map (Map). Section I14–J14.
  18. ^ Michigan Department of State Highways (1966). Official Highway Map (Map). Section I14–J14.
  19. ^ "Portion of US 33 Is Now Indiana 933: Name Changes Along Lincoln Way, North to State Line". South Bend Tribune. April 18, 1998. OCLC 8793233. Retrieved December 29, 2008.  (subscription required)
  20. ^ Staff (March 5, 2010). "Contract Number 2010-0086". Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved March 8, 2010.  (registration required)
  21. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (2010). Truck Operator's Map (Map). 1 in:4.25 mi / 1 cm:2 km. Niles inset.
  22. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (2011). Truck Operator's Map (Map). 1 in:4.25 mi / 1 cm:2 km. Niles inset.

External links[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing

  • M-51 at Michigan Highways
  • M-51 at Michigan Highway Ends