M-15 (Michigan)

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M-15 highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by MDOT
Length73.664 mi[1] (118.551 km)
Existedc. 1927[2]–present
Pathway to Family Fun Recreational Heritage Route
NHSSouthern terminus to Flint Street in Davison[3]
Major junctions
South end US 24 near Clarkston
Major intersections
North end M-25 in Bay City
CountryUnited States
CountiesOakland, Genesee, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay
Highway system
M-14 US 16

M-15 is a north–south state trunkline highway in the US state of Michigan. The southern terminus is a junction with US Highway 24 (US 24) just south of Clarkston on the northwestern edge of the Detroit metropolitan area. The trunkline is a recreational route running north and northwest to the Tri-Cities area. The northern terminus is the junction with M-25 on the east side of Bay City. The total length is about 73+23 miles (118.6 km) between the two regions.

The original M-15 designation was used in the northern half of the state in 1919. This designation was wholly replaced by the US 41 on November 11, 1926. This previous designation contained the section of highway in Marquette County that is home to the first painted highway centerline in the nation. Another section in western Marquette County included the first bridge built by the state of Michigan. Within the next year after M-15 was replaced by US 41, the designation was reused for a new highway routing along the current highway. This current highway was extended northerly to eventually end at Interstate 75 (I-75) in Bay City, before it was scaled back slightly to end in southeast Bay City. A proposed, but unbuilt, extension around the west side of Metro Detroit later became part of the I-275 corridor.

This highway is now a part of the Pure Michigan Byway System, but none of it is located on the National Highway System. A section of the two-lane highway has the local moniker, "Death Alley", where the local sheriff says the highway is poorly designed. The stretch of highway in Genesee County has been the location of 14 traffic fatalities between 2004 and 2009 as reported by The Flint Journal, including that of a 14-year-old local girl.

Route description

M-15 in Merritt Township, looking southbound

M-15 runs through mostly rural agricultural communities of The Thumb connecting the northern edge of Metro Detroit with the Tri-Cities area. It starts at a junction south of the village of Clarkston in northern Oakland County. The highway runs north along Ortonville Road from the intersection with US 24 (Dixie Highway) near Deer and Middle lakes through Clarkston. Continuing through town on Main Street near Parke Lake, it comes to an interchange with I-75 north of the village next to Little Walters Lake. South of Ortonville near Lake Louise and Bald Eagle Lake, M-15 turns northwest between the two lakes. The trunkline becomes State Road at the county line and turns north again near Shinanguag Lake near the Ortonville State Recreation Area outside Goodrich in southeastern Genesee County. South of Davison, M-15 intersects I-69 near the Davison Country Club before running through town. In Otisville, State Road curves around to the west of some small lakes and through town.[4][5]

State Road turns northwesterly again in Millington in southwestern Tuscola County, heading up to Vassar. In Vassar, M-15 intersects and turns northwest along Huron Avenue, a historical routing of M-24, crossing the Cass River in town. Outside Vassar, Huron Avenue becomes Saginaw Road. In western Tuscola County, M-15 intersects M-46 in the community of Richville. The name of the road changes in Saginaw County to Vassar Road, and the trunkline continues northwesterly through the Blumfield Township communities of Blumfield Corners and Arthur. Arthur is located along the highway between the M-83 and M-81 junctions.[4][5]

In Bay County, M-15 follows Tuscola Road where it meets the western terminus of M-138 which runs along Munger Road in Munger. As the highway enters Bay City on the southeast side of town, Tuscola Road leaves the farmlands for residential areas of Bay City. The roadway runs northerwesterly near the St. Stanislaus, St. Patrick and Elm Lawn cemeteries, before turning north on Trumbull Street at 10th Street. The highway follows Trumbull Street for five blocks, where the highway designation ends at a four-way intersection with M-25/Center Avenue. Trumbull Street continues north through this residential section of the city.[4][5]


Original designation

An old photograph of a bend in a road surrounded by trees and power poles. There are wooded guardrails on either side of the road, with a white-painted centerline separating the two lanes of traffic. Two old cars are approaching the curve which also has arrows to denote the direction of traffic.
Dead Man's Curve along the Marquette–Negaunee Road shown in 1917 with its hand-painted centerline, the first in the nation

On July 1, 1919, the original routing of M-15 was located in the Upper Peninsula (UP). It ran from the state line along the Menominee River in Menominee, connecting with STH-15 in Wisconsin, running north through the UP to Escanaba, Marquette and Houghton. Between Powers and Escanaba, M-15 ran concurrently with M-12. The northern terminus of the highway was at Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor.[6] The first highway centerline in the nation was painted along a section of the highway in 1917, along the Marquette–Negaunee Road,[7] now a part of Marquette County Road 492.[6][8]

The Peshekee River Bridge, carried M-15 over the Peshekee River in western Marquette County's Michigamme Township . The bridge was built in 1914 in response to the 1913 State Trunk Line Act passed by the Michigan Legislature. This act designated a state trunkline highway network of nearly 3,000 miles (4,828 km). The act further said that the Michigan State Highway Department would design, build and maintain trunkline bridges spanning 30 feet (9 m) or more so long as the local governments improved an adjacent 3 miles (4.8 km) of roads. Marquette County built a mainline road from Marquette west to Michigamme near the county line, this road generally followed what is now known as County Road 492 (CR 492). About 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Marquette on CR 492 is a historical marker at the site of the first center line painted in 1917 along Dead Man's Curve.[7] M-15 continued through Morgan Meadows and crossing the Carp River into the town of Negaunee and connecting with Ishpeming. This road in now known as East Division or "County Road" also former Business M-28. West of Ishpeming in Ishpeming Township, M-15 followed Randal Drive and Westward to North Lake Junction. M-15 made its way along what is now CR 496 and several abandoned sections through Clarksburg and Humboldt Locations and the village of Champion. West of Champion M-15 continued to Michigamme crossing the Peshekee River, Marquette County improved a 3-mile (4.8 km) section in 1913 to encourage the state to build the bridge. The bridge was designed by C.V. Dewart for the department and built by the local firm of Powell and Mitchell in Marquette. The bridge was designated Trunk Line Bridge No. 1 as the first state-built bridge on the trunkline highway system.[9]

The 1925 draft plan for the establishment of the United States Numbered Highway System would have replaced M-15 with three different US Highways. Between Menominee and Powers, M-15 was to be replaced by US 41. East of Powers to Rapid River, the trunkline would have been US 2. The next segment between Rapid River and Humboldt was planned as US 102 while the remainder north to Copper Harbor was not numbered as a US Highway.[10] When the system was announced on November 11, 1926,[11] US 41 was the only US Highway routed along the alignment of M-15. The original map showed US 41 following an unbuilt alignment between Powers and Marquette,[12] but the US 41 designation was instead routed to follow the former M-15.[2]

Current designation

The current routing of M-15 was designated after 1926. The southern end was located at US 10 in Clarkston running north to M-38 and M-24 in Vassar.[2] By the end of 1936, M-15 was extended concurrently along M-24 from Vassar into Bay City.[13] By June 1942, the M-24 concurrency was removed as M-24 was realigned to replace M-85 between Vassar and Caro.[14][15] By July 1, 1960, the northern end was extended to run concurrently with M-25 and BUS US 23 to US 23 on the west side of Bay City.[16] This M-15/M-25 routing was extended again in the next year to end at the new I-75/US 10/US 23 freeway.[17] These two northerly extensions were both reversed and scaled back in 1970. M-15's northern end is moved back to M-25/Center Avenue in Bay City, its current location.[18][19] At some time after the 1993 beginning of the program,[20] M-15 was named the "Pathway to Family Fun" Recreational Heritage Route in what is now the Pure Michigan Byway System.[21] Running roughly parallel to I-75, the route has not been added to the National Highway System,[22] a system of roadways considered important to the nation's economy, defense and mobility.[23]

The state highway map in 1933 showed a proposed southern extension from Clarkston through southern Oakland County, Wayne County into Monroe County.[24] This proposed highway would have bypassed Metro Detroit to the west through Farmington, Northville, Plymouth and Belleville. The full highway was never built, and M-15 was never extended south of Clarkston, but part of this proposal was completed. Much of it later became Haggerty Highway, and part of the I-275 and M-5 corridors.[4][24]

"Death Alley"

M-15 between the Oakland County line and I-69 has been nicknamed by locals as "Death Alley". On April 17, 2009, The Flint Journal reported that between 2004 and April 2009, 14 people died on the stretch of road in car accidents. When Genesee County Sheriff Robert J. Pickell was asked about the stretch, he said the road suffers from a bad design, including a lack of turn lanes. He was quoted as saying, "It's a death trap".[25] The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) looks at roadways after every fatal crash to determine what improvements could be made. Other local government officials have called for solutions to safety issues on the roadway.[25]

Major intersections

OaklandIndependence Charter Township0.0000.000 US 24 (Dixie Highway) – Pontiac
1.7812.866 I-75 – Flint, DetroitExit 91 on I-75
GeneseeDavison Township25.58641.177 I-69 – Port Huron, FlintExit 145 on I-69
Forest Township37.53260.402
M-57 west – Clio, Montrose, Chesaning
Eastern terminus of M-57
TuscolaDenmark Township56.64591.161 M-46 – Saginaw, Sandusky
SaginawBlumfield Township60.36597.148
M-83 south – Frankenmuth
Northern terminus of M-83
62.03499.834 M-81 – Saginaw, Caro
BayMerritt Township67.665108.896
M-138 east – Fairgrove, Akron
Western terminus of M-138
Bay City73.664118.551 M-25 / LHCT (Center Avenue)Roadway continues north as Trumbull Street
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi


  1. ^ a b Michigan Department of Transportation (2021). Next Generation PR Finder (Map). Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Michigan State Highway Department (December 1, 1927). Official Highway Service Map (Map). [c. 1:810,000]. Lansing: Michigan State Highway Department. OCLC 12701195, 79754957.
  3. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (2023). National Functional Classification (Map). Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d Michigan Department of Transportation (2009). Michigan: Official Department of Transportation Map (Map). c. 1:975,000. Lansing: Michigan Department of Transportation. §§ J12–L13. OCLC 42778335.
  5. ^ a b c Google (February 1, 2010). "Overview Map of M-15" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Michigan State Highway Department (July 1, 1919). State of Michigan (Map). Scale not given. Lansing: Michigan State Highway Department. Upper Peninsula sheet. OCLC 15607244. Retrieved December 18, 2016 – via Michigan State University Libraries.
  7. ^ a b Kulsea, Bill & Shawver, Tom (1980). Making Michigan Move: A History of Michigan Highways and the Michigan Department of Transportation. Lansing: Michigan Department of Transportation. p. 10. OCLC 8169232. Retrieved January 18, 2012 – via Wikisource.
  8. ^ Google (February 1, 2010). "Negaunee, Michigan" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
  9. ^ Staff (April 23, 2002). "US 41 (Abandoned) / Peshekee River Bridge". Michigan's Historic Bridges. Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  10. ^ Joint Board on Interstate Highways (1925). "Appendix VI: Descriptions of the Interstate Routes Selected, with Numbers Assigned". Report of Joint Board on Interstate Highways, October 30, 1925, Approved by the Secretary of Agriculture, November 18, 1925 (Report). Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture. p. 52. OCLC 733875457, 55123355, 71026428. Retrieved November 14, 2017 – via Wikisource.
  11. ^ Weingroff, Richard F. (January 9, 2009). "From Names to Numbers: The Origins of the U.S. Numbered Highway System". Highway History. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved April 21, 2009.
  12. ^ Bureau of Public Roads & American Association of State Highway Officials (November 11, 1926). United States System of Highways Adopted for Uniform Marking by the American Association of State Highway Officials (Map). 1:7,000,000. Washington, DC: United States Geological Survey. OCLC 32889555. Retrieved November 7, 2013 – via Wikimedia Commons.
  13. ^ Michigan State Highway Department & Rand McNally (December 15, 1936). Official Michigan Highway Map (Map) (Winter ed.). [c. 1:850,000]. Lansing: Michigan State Highway Department. § J12. OCLC 12701143, 317396365. Retrieved October 17, 2019 – via Michigan History Center.
  14. ^ Michigan State Highway Department & Rand McNally (July 1, 1941). Official Michigan Highway Map (Map) (Summer ed.). [c. 1:850,000]. Lansing: Michigan State Highway Department. § J13. OCLC 12701143. Archived from the original on April 22, 2017. Retrieved January 2, 2017 – via Archives of Michigan.
  15. ^ Michigan State Highway Department & Rand McNally (June 1, 1942). Official Michigan Highway Map (Map) (Summer ed.). [c. 1:850,000]. Lansing: Michigan State Highway Department. § J13. OCLC 12701143.
  16. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (1960). Official Highway Map (Map). [c. 1:918,720]. Lansing: Michigan State Highway Department. § J12. OCLC 12701120, 81552576. Retrieved October 17, 2019 – via Michigan History Center. (Includes all changes through July 1, 1960)
  17. ^ Michigan State Highway Department (1961). Official Highway Map (Map). [c. 1:918,720]. Lansing: Michigan State Highway Department. § J12. OCLC 12701120, 51857665. Retrieved October 17, 2019 – via Michigan History Center. (Includes all changes through July 1, 1961)
  18. ^ Michigan Department of State Highways (1970). Michigan, Great Lake State: Official Highway Map (Map). c. 1:918,720. Lansing: Michigan Department of State Highways. § J12. OCLC 12701120.
  19. ^ Michigan Department of State Highways (1971). Michigan, Great Lake State: Official Highway Map (Map). c. 1:918,720. Lansing: Michigan Department of State Highways. § J12. OCLC 12701120, 77960415.
  20. ^ Staff (January 29, 2010). "Drive Home Our Heritage". Michigan Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on March 14, 2010. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
  21. ^ Staff (November 5, 2009). "Interactive Heritage Route Listing". Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
  22. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (April 23, 2006). National Highway System, Michigan (PDF) (Map). Lansing: Michigan Department of Transportation. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 4, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2008.
  23. ^ Natzke, Stefan; Neathery, Mike & Adderly, Kevin (June 20, 2012). "What is the National Highway System?". National Highway System. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved July 1, 2012.
  24. ^ a b Michigan State Highway Department & Rand McNally (May 1, 1933). Official Michigan Highway Map (Map). [c. 1:840,000]. Lansing: Michigan State Highway Department. § L13–N13. OCLC 12701053. Archived from the original on May 10, 2017. Retrieved December 18, 2016 – via Archives of Michigan.
  25. ^ a b Morrison, Julie (April 17, 2009). "Teen Dies after Crash on 'Death Alley'". The Flint Journal. Retrieved April 18, 2009.

External links

  • M-15 at Michigan Highways