M-53 (Michigan highway)

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M-53 marker

M-53 highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by MDOT
Length: 120.980 mi[2] (194.698 km)
Existed: c. July 1, 1919[1] – present
Major junctions
South end: M‑3 in Detroit

I‑94 in Detroit
M‑102 at Detroit–Warren
I‑696 in Warren
M‑59 in Utica
I‑69 near Imlay City
M‑46 near Kingston

M‑81 near Cass City
North end: M‑25 in Port Austin
Counties: Wayne, Macomb, Lapeer, Sanilac, Huron
Highway system
M‑52 M‑54

M-53 is a state trunkline highway in the US state of Michigan that connects Detroit to The Thumb region. The highway starts in Detroit at a connection with M-3 and ends in Port Austin, Michigan at M-25. In between, the trunkline passes through the northern suburbs of Metro Detroit, connects to freeways like Interstate 69 (I-69) and provides access to rural farmland. in Macomb County, M-53 follows the Christopher Columbus Freeway, while the remainder of the highway is known as Van Dyke Avenue in the metro area or Van Dyke Road elsewhere. The highway has also been named the Earle Memorial Highway for one of the pioneers of the Good Roads Movement and Michigan's highway system.

When the first state highways were signed in the field in 1919, M-53 was one of them, running from Detroit to Elkton. In the 1920s, the highway was extended northward to connect with Port Austin. Later improvements through 1940 realigned a section of the roadway near Imlay City and completed paving. With planning and construction during the 1950s and 60s, the state converted portions of the road north of Detroit to have divided highway and freeway segments. The freeway bypass of Romeo was started in the 1990s and finished to its current state in 2003.

Route description[edit]

Starting at the intersection between Van Dyke Avenue and M-3 (Gratiot Avenue), M-53 runs north-northwesterly along Van Dyke in the city of Detroit. The four-lane roadway passes through residential neighborhoods on the city's east side. About a half mile (0.8 km) north of its start, M-53 meets I-94 at the latter's exit 218. On the opposite side of the freeway interchange, Van Dyke Avenue turns due north and continues through a mix of residential and industrial areas near Coleman A. Young International Airport.[3][4] In this area, the highway crosses branch lines for both the Conrail Shared Assets Operations and the Canadian National Railway.[5] M-53 continues northward through residential areas north of 6 Mile Road and crosses from Detroit into Warren at the junction with 8 Mile Road; that road also marks the WayneMacomb county line. The highway passes through the middle of Center Line, an enclave surrounded by Warren. On the northern edge of Center Line, M-53 meets exit 23 along I-696, the Walter Reuther Freeway. North of this interchange, Van Dyke Avenue crosses back into Warren and continues northward.[3][4] The highway is paralleled by a Conrail line as they both pass through the northern Detroit suburbs.[5] Between 12 Mile and 14 Mile roads, M-53 passes next to the General Motors Technical Center and through the center of a suburban shopping district. The roadway widens out into a divided highway as it continues northward, crossing into Sterling Heights at 14 Mile Road. The highway is bounded by additional commercial and light industrial properties as it intersects Metropolitan Parkway (16 Mile Road).[3][4]

The General Motors Technical Center next to M-53 in Warren

Near 18 Mile Road, M-53 curves to the northeast and separates from Van Dyke Avenue. This separation is marked by an interchange as M-53 also transitions into a full, four-lane freeway. The interchange, numbered exit 15, connects to a roundabout junction with 18½ Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue. M-53, now named either the Van Dyke Freeway or the Christopher Columbus Freeway, crosses the Clinton River before resuming a northward course, passing to the east side of Utica in Shelby Township. M-53 runs about one mile (1.6 km) to the east of Van Dyke Avenue through the area, and north of the 23 Mile Road interchange, it curves northwesterly to draw closer to Van Dyke. The landscape is mostly residential subdivisions with parks and golf courses as the freeway exits Metro Detroit proper.[3][4] There is one last interchange near 28 Mile Road where the freeway meets Van Dyke Road, as it is now called. M-53 turns northeasterly, running as an expressway, with at-grade intersections for access at the key cross roads instead of full interchanges. The expressway section bypasses Romeo to its east, passing between the city and the Romeo State Airport. There are intersections for 30 and 32 Mile roads before the highway curves to the northwest and transitions back to a rural undivided, two-lane, highway near 34 Mile Road. The Columbus Freeway designation drops at this point, and M-53 follows Van Dyke Road north and northwesterly through rural northern Macomb County.[3][6]

Southern end of the Christopher Columbus Freeway at the interchange with Van Dyke Road

North of Romeo, the trunkline passes through agricultural areas of The Thumb region of the state. M-53 crosses into Lapeer County south of Almont. Further north, Van Dyke Road meets I-69 in Imlay City, running through the downtown area north of the Interstate;[3][6] Imlay City is also the location of a crossing of the Canadian National Railway line that carries Amtrak's Blue Water service between Flint and Port Huron.[5] In the unincorporated community of Burnside, M-53 intersects M-90. The two highways run concurrently for about a mile and a half (2.4 km) before separating. M-53 continues northward and crosses into Sanilac County near Marlette.[3][6] In that city, the highway crosses a branch line of the Huron and Eastern Railway (HESR)[5] before continuing through downtown. From Marlette northward, M-53 runs parallel to, and about a mile east of, the Sanilac–Tuscola county line. The highway follows Van Dyke Road through rural farming country past intersections with M-46 and M-81 and across the Cass River before crossing into Huron County.[3][6]

About six miles (9.7 km) into Huron County, the highway turns to the northeast. Near Bad Axe, Van Dyke Road curves again, turning due east into town where it becomes Huron Street. At downtown, M-53 turns north on Port Crescent Street, joining with M-142.[3][6] The two highways cross another branch line of the HESR.[5] Outside of town, the street name changes back to Van Dyke Road, and M-142 separates to the west. M-53 now follows Van Dyke Road, which is paralleled by a HESR line as far north as Kinde. The highway continues further along, meandering toward the northeast as it approaches Port Austin. M-25 merges in from the east at Grindstone Road, and the two highways run together north along Lake Street into town. At the intersection with Spring Street, M-25 turns west to follow the shoreline of Saginaw Bay, and M-53 terminates.[3][6]

M-53 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-53 were the 62,594 vehicles daily between the southern end of the freeway and M-59; the lowest counts were the 1,964 vehicles per day north of Kinde.[7] M-53 between M-3 in Detroit and the northern M-142 junction near Bad Axe has been listed on the National Highway System,[8] a network of roads important to the country's economy, defense, and mobility.[9]


M-53 was first designated by 1919; it started at Gratiot Avenue in Detroit running north through Centerline, and Utica to eventually end east of Elkton on M-31.[1] An extension in 1926 moved the northern terminus to Port Austin along the former M-19.[10] A new route near Imlay City was opened in 1932,[11][12] with the southern section of the bypass opened in 1937.[13][14] The trunkline was completely paved by 1940 when the last 11 miles (18 km) were paved in Huron and Sanilac counties.[15][16]

The first divided highway section was completed in 1952 in Warren,[17][18] with an additional two miles (3.2 km) completed the following year, completing the divided highway between 12 Mile and 17 Mile roads.[19][20] Full freeway segments were built in 1965 between 18 Mile and 27½ Mile roads near Utica and Romeo. The plans at the time were to extend the freeway west one mile to Mound Road and then have it continue south along the Mound Road corridor into Detroit to connect with the Davison Freeway and I-96. In fact, a four-level freeway-to-freeway interchange had already been completed at the intersection of Mound Road and I-696 in Warren.[21][22] Construction started on the Romeo Bypass in 1989.[23] Completed in 1992, the bypass extended a two-lane expressway to 34 Mile Road.[24][25] Further construction on the remaining two lanes was started in 2002.[26] When it was finished in 2003, the highway had two remaining intersections but is otherwise a limited-access freeway. The old highway was transferred to local control and removed from the state trunkline highway system.[27][28]

Memorial highway designations[edit]

The freeway and expressway sections of M-53 are officially known as the Christopher Columbus Freeway as a nod to Macomb County's large Italian American population. This designation was approved by the Michigan Legislature in 1978. The remainder has been named Van Dyke Avenue or Van Dyke Road. That name honors James A. Van Dyke, a prominent attorney in Detroit in the 19th century. Van Dyke was the prosecutor for Wayne County, as well as both city attorney and mayor of Detroit. The street through Detroit was named in his honor, and as the highway was extended northward, the name was carried with it.[29]

The last name applied to M-53 is the Earle Memorial Highway, named in honor of Horatio Earle, Michigan's first State Highway Commissioner. Earle was instrumental in the early Good Roads Movement in the state and the creation of the Michigan State Highway Department, which is now MDOT. When the original legislation creating a highway agency was declared unconstitutional in 1903, he kept the job in an unofficial capacity until the Legislature could rectify the situation. Earle designated that the first mile of state reward road in The Thumb, and residents formed a group to lobby to have the road named in his honor. The State Highway Commissioner Murray Van Wagoner designated M-53 in Earle's memory in April 1939, and the Legislature legislation two years later honoring him, but not officially naming the road. That was corrected in 2001 when the statutes naming various highways in the state were consolidated, and M-53 was officially designated the Earle Memorial Highway.[29]

Major intersections[edit]

County Location Mile[2] km Exit Destinations Notes
Wayne Detroit 0.000 0.000 M‑3 (Gratiot Avenue) – Roseville, Downtown Detroit
0.576 0.927 I‑94 – Port Huron, Chicago Exit 218 on I-94
M‑102 (8 Mile Road) 8 Mile Road is the county line
Macomb Center Line 7.890–
I‑696 – Port Huron, Lansing Exit 23 on I-696
Sterling Heights 12.985–
Metropolitan Parkway (16 Mile Road)
15.116 24.327 South end of freeway
15.279 24.589 15 Van Dyke Ave north, 18 ½ Mile Road – Utica Signed as 18 ½ Mile Road southbound
17 M‑59 (Hall Road) – Mt. Clemens, Pontiac Signed as 17A (east) and 17B (west) northbound
Shelby Charter Township 20.583 33.125 20 23 Mile Road Signed as 20A (east) and 20B (west) northbound
Shelby Charter Township
Washington Township
23.732 38.193 23 26 Mile Road Signed as 23A (east) and 23B (west) northbound
Washington Township 25.033 40.287 25 Van Dyke Avenue – Romeo Left exit northbound; no exit numbered southbound; northern end of freeway and southern end of expressway
28.005 45.070 30 Mile Road Cross intersection
Romeo 30.176 48.564 32 Mile Road – Downtown Romeo Cross intersection
Bruce Township 32.007 51.510 Northern end of expressway
Lapeer Imlay City 44.973–
I‑69 – Port Huron, Flint Exit 168 on I-69
Burnside 59.558 95.849 M‑90 east – Brown City Southern end of M-90 concurrency
Burnside Township 61.044 98.241 M‑90 west – North Branch Northern end of M-90 concurrency
Sanilac Lamotte Township 73.691 118.594 M‑46 – Sandusky, Saginaw
Greenleaf Township 86.703 139.535 M‑81 west – Caro Eastern terminus of M-81
Huron Bad Axe 103.855 167.138 M‑142 east (Sand Beach Road) – Harbor Beach Southern end of M-142 concurrency
Colfax Township 105.345 169.536 M‑142 west – Elkton Northern end of M-142 concurrency
Port Austin 120.587 194.066 M‑25 south / LHCT south – Port Hope South end of M-25/LHCT concurrency
120.980 194.698 M‑25 west / LHCT west / Spring Street – Caseville North end of M-25/LHCT concurrency
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Michigan State Highway Department (July 1, 1919). State of Michigan: Lower Peninsula (Map). Cartography by MSHD.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Google, Inc. "Overview Map of M-53". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Van+Dyke+Ave&daddr=Lake+St&hl=en&sll=44.043643,-82.992493&sspn=0.007434,0.007285&geocode=FWumhgIdxEsN-w%3BFeYXoAIdGJ4N-w&mra=ls&t=h&z=9. Retrieved May 19, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Michigan Department of Transportation (2011). State Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:2.5 mi / 1 cm:1.75 km. Section A12–E12, Detroit Area inset.
  5. ^ a b c d e 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.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Michigan Department of Transportation (2011). State Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:15 mi / 1 cm:9 km. Section I13–M14.
  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 State Highway Department (December 1, 1926). Official Highway Service Map (Map). Cartography by MSHD.
  11. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (April 1, 1932). Official Michigan Highway Map (Map). Cartography by Rand McNally.
  12. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (October 1, 1932). Official Michigan Highway Map (Map). Cartography by Rand McNally.
  13. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (May 15, 1937). 1937 Official Michigan Highway Map (Map). Cartography by Rand McNally (Summer ed.).
  14. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (December 1, 1937). 1937/8 Official Michigan Highway Map (Map). Cartography by Rand McNally (Winter ed.).
  15. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (July 15, 1940). 1940 Official Michigan Highway Map (Map). Cartography by Rand McNally (Summer ed.). Section J14.
  16. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (December 1, 1940). 1940 Official Michigan Highway Map (Map). Cartography by Rand McNally (Winter ed.). Section J14.
  17. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (April 15, 1952). 1952 Official Highway Map (Map).
  18. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (October 1, 1952). 1952 Official Highway Map (Map).
  19. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (April 15, 1953). 1953 Official Highway Map (Map).
  20. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (October 1, 1953). 1953 Official Highway Map (Map).
  21. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (1965). Official Highway Map (Map).
  22. ^ Michigan Department of State Highways (1966). Official Highway Map (Map).
  23. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (1989). Michigan Department of Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:14.5 mi / 1 in:23 km.
  24. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (1992). Michigan Department of Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:14.5 mi / 1 in:23 km.
  25. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (1993). Michigan Department of Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:14.5 mi / 1 in:23 km.
  26. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (2001). Official Department of Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:14.5 mi / 1 cm:9 km.
  27. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (2003). Official Department of Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:14.5 mi / 1 cm:9 km (2003–04 ed.).
  28. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (2004). Official Department of Transportation Map (Map). 1 in:15 mi / 1 cm:9 km (2003–04 ed.).
  29. ^ a b Barnett, LeRoy (2004). A Drive Down Memory Lane: The Named State and Federal Highways of Michigan. Allegan Forest, MI: Priscilla Press. pp. 54, 79, 218–9. ISBN 1-886167-24-9. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing

  • M-53 at Michigan Highways
  • M-53 at Michigan Highway Ends