Pure Michigan Byways (Heritage Routes)
Pure Michigan Byways are specially-designated and signed state trunkline routes with special significance. The Michigan Heritage Route Program—the original name for the Pure Michigan Byways, was created by the Public Act 69 of 1993 and designed to identify, inventory, protect, enhance, and in some cases, promote state trunklines and adjacent land with distinctive or unique scenic, cultural, or historic qualities. The normal process for route nomination within the Pure Michigan Byways Program follows a standard eight-step procedure: formation of a nominating team, identification of potential routes, evaluation of the highway using a roadside inventory, selection of route to be nominated, preparation of a management plan, evidence of local support, preparation of nomination/application, and submission of application.
Pure Michigan Byway routes are designated under six different "intrinsic qualities" (categories)— the three original Heritage Route categories and three new ones—each linked below with detailed listings for each route, including the limits of the Byway, its length, notes and related links:
- Scenic Byways & Heritage Routes – state highways having outstanding natural beauty;
- Historic Byways & Heritage Routes – state highways having outstanding historic resources along their length;
- Recreational Byways & Heritage Routes – state highways maintained not only to serve the recreational driver, but also to capture that recreational setting of the area itself, and set the mood for the recreational experience;
- Cultural Byways* – state highways traversing an area with unique cultural and/or ethnic heritage amenities such as art galleries, theatres, opera houses, restaurants, markets and music venues;
- Archeological Byways* – state highways traversing a corridor with ruins, artifacts, and structural remains; and
- Natural Byways* – state highways traversing a corridor with natural features that are relatively undisturbed, unique geological landforms, vegitation, water bodies, or conservation areas.
* New categories debuting with the Pure Michigan Byway program in 2015.
2014–16: Heritage Routes become Pure Michigan Byways
On December 17, 2014, the Michigan State Senate passed House Bill 5072 to change the name from Heritage Route to Pure Michigan Byway. According to an MDOT report, "This action is part of a rebranding and reinventing of the program to align it with statewide travel and tourism initiatives." The House Bill, sponsored by Rep. Peter Pettalia, amended Public Act 69 of 1993 and removes references to Michigan Heritage Routes and replaces them with references to "Pure Michigan Byways", requires MDOT to designate all Michigan Heritage Routes as Pure Michigan Byways within one year after the bill's effective date, and allows MDOT to designate portions of a road as a Pure Michigan Byway. The Governor signed the bill into law on December 30, 2014.
The existing Heritage Route markers posted along each route will be replaced with new markers developed in cooperation with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, MDOT, and the various Byway committees. The new markers incorporate the "Pure Michigan" campaign logo and the word "Byway," which is used nationwide in 45 other state programs. In addition, just prior to the Pure Michigan Byways legislation, MDOT also introduced three new "intrinsic qualities" (categories) to the program—Cultural, Archaeological, and Natural—to augment the existing Scenic, Historic and Recreational categories. The additional categories were added to allow for more flexibility with the types of routes which can be accepted into the program.
The transition from Heritage Routes to the new Pure Michigan Byways in the field began in October 2015 with the designation of the first new route under the "Byways" banner: M-134 in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Existing Heritage Routes are scheduled to receive new signage starting in 2016. Until an existing Heritage Route is verified as having its new Pure Michigan Byways signs posted, they will be listed on this site under their original categories. Newly-signed or newly-designated Byways, however, will be listed under the appropriate Byway category.
List of Pure Michigan Byways & Michigan Heritage Routes
- Pure Michigan Byways Routes – information from the Michigan Department of Transportation.
- Pure Michigan Byways and Tour Routes Driving Guide – published in 2016 by MDOT and Travel Michigan.
- Analysis of House Bill 5072 (Pure Michigan Byways) – as passed by the Michigan House of Representatives.
- Letter from MDOT Director Kirk Steudle to Gov. Rick Snyder – from December 22, 2014 comprising the annual report on the Heritage Route (Pure Michigan Byways) program, noting the recent changes and renaming.
- Iconic state highways could get Pure Michigan name change – article from the November 15, 2014 Petoskey News.