Michigan Highways: Since 1997.

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Michigan's Route Markers

From the earliest times of numbered and marked state trunklines in Michigan, the standard state route marker has been the shape of a diamond with a block letter "M" in the upper corner. Early on, the diamond was taller than wide, had the words "STATE TRUNKLINE" across the widest part and the "M" and the route number were of the same size.

These early route markers would either be erected on stand-alone posts or on telephone and electric line poles along the highway. (Utility poles close by the side of the travelled-way were much more common in the first half of the 20th century.) Quite often, the "new" state trunkline marker of the late 1910s and early 1920s was applied directly over or adjacent to the colored bands designating one or more Named Auto Trails. By the 1930s, the diamond had been "squashed" down so that all angles were at 90 degrees.

The ubiquitous Michigan diamond state route marker was reportedly designed by Allan M. Williams (1892–1979) who joined the Michigan State Highway Department as a project engineer in 1918 and, in conjunction with a $50 million dollar highway bond issue in 1919, he drafted the state's first complete highway map. Since Michigan began designating and signing its state trunkline highways at this time, it is quite possible Mr. Willliams did, indeed, design the original state trunkine route marker. While Williams became engineer-manager of the Ionia County Road Commission in 1919, he also continued in a dual role as project engineer for the state highway department until 1927 and held his position with Ionia County until his retirement in 1957.

In the early 1970s when U.S. federal government mandated updated and standardized traffic signage, the traditional Michigan "cutout" diamond was then incorporated with a square black sign "blank," as it is today. For more than three decades, the Michigan state trunkline marker has remained relatively unchanged.

This page attempts to illustrate the many and varies types of route markers used on Michigan's highways, from Interstate, US and State highways to National Forest routes, Great Lakes Circle Tours, county roads and others. Pick a type of route marker to jump directly to it:

Interstate | US Highway | State | County | Forest | Circle Tour | Heritage (Byway) | Other

Interstate Highway Markers (Mainline Routes)
Interstate Route Marker - Michigan
Interstate Route Marker - Michigan
Interstate Business Loop Route Marker - Michigan
Interstate Business Spur Route Marker - Michigan
Original style Interstate route marker adopted in the late 1950s and in use into the 1980s.
Newer-style Interstate route marker omits the state name, allowing for larger and easier-to-read numerals.
Interstate Business Loop route marker, commonly used in Michigan.
Interstate Business Spur route marker is less common due to a smaller number of these routes.
Interstate Highway Markers (3-digit Loop & Spur Routes)
Interstate Route Marker - Michigan
Interstate Route Marker - Michigan
Interstate Business Loop Route Marker - Michigan
Interstate Business Spur Route Marker - Michigan
Original style Interstate three-digit route marker adopted in the late 1950s and in use into the 1980s.
Newer-style Interstate three-digit route marker omits the state name, allowing for larger and easier-to-read numerals.
Three-digit Interstate Business Loop route marker, commonly used in Michigan.
Three-digit Interstate Business Spur route marker is less common due to a smaller number of these routes.
US Highway Markers
US Route Marker - Michigan (1920s-40s)
US Route Marker - Michigan (1940s-70s)
US Route Marker - Michigan (1940s-1970s)
US Route Marker (Outline) - Michigan (1950s-60s)
Original "cutout" style US Highway route marker adopted in 1927 and in use into the late 1940s. Wider three-digit markers did not exist at this point.
In 1948, the US Highway route marker began using the "new" FHWA typeface, but was otherwise unchanged in shape. It remained in use into the 1970s.
Although it seems it may not have been adopted nationally, Michigan did use a wider variant of the 1948 cutout US Highway route marker for three-digit highways into the 1970s as well.
This "Outline Sign" was used in from 1948 into the 1960s for junction, target and overhead route marker assemblies. A wider three-digit marker also existed.
US Route Marker - Michigan
US Route Marker (wide) - Michigan
US Route Marker (wide) - Michigan
US Route Marker - Michigan
While the US Highway maker was revised in 1961 to include a black "sign blank" background, Michigan continued using the 1948 version until this 1971 modified version was adopted. The state converted to this style still used today.
The modern-day three-digit US Highway route marker, also adopted in 1971 when Michigan converted from using the 1948 version.
The modern-day three-digit US Highway route marker using the narrower "Series C" of the FHWA typeface to accommodate larger numbers.
As Michigan has two US Highways with two "1"s in their designations, many US-131 and US-141 route markers have been posted using the two-digit route shield.
State Highway Markers
State Route Marker - Michigan (1920s)
State Route Marker - Michigan (1930s-40s)
State Route Marker - Michigan (1950s-60s)
State Route Marker - Michigan
These are two representations of early state trunkline route markers from the 1920s, one wrapped around a utility pole (L) and the other an independently-mounted sign (R).
A more standard state highway route marker was settled upon in 1926 concurrent with the adoption of the first U.S. Highway route marker.
When the U.S. Highway route marker was modified to use the "new" FHWA typeface in 1948, the Michigan state trunkline marker followed suit with regard to the numerals. The "block M" remained as it was, however.
Again, when the FHWA updated the U.S. Highway route marker specification in 1971 to use black "sign blanks" as a background, Michigan followed suit to create its current style of route marker.
State Route Marker - Michigan
State Route Marker (wide) - Michigan
M-185 Route Marker - Michigan (Mackinac Island)
Capitol Loop Route Marker
Another rendition of the present state highway marker, this one showing how three-digit route numbers appear using the "Series C" FHWA typeface.
To date, the only reassurance or other independently-mounted state highway markers in an elongated format appear along M-553 in Marquette Co.
A very unique route, Mackinac Island's M-185 is the only "motorless state highway" and sports unique signage, including distances from the visitor center.
Yet another unique trunkline route, the CAPITOL LOOP in downtown Lansing functions as a loop off I-496, but has its own unique markers.
Intercounty & County Route Markers
County-Designated Route Marker - Michigan
County-Designated Route Marker - Michigan
County Route Marker - Michigan
County Route Marker - Michigan
The standard Intercounty Highway route marker, although this one is unique in that A-2 is the only 'two-character' route. The marker was created in 1967 by the National Assoc. of Counties as part of their National Uniform County Route Marker Program.
Another IntercountyHighway route marker, this one uses a hyphen between the letter and numbers. There is no concensus between the "with" and "without" hyphen styles and both tylesmay be seen along the same route.
Some counties in Michigan sign their own county routes, such as Gogebic illustrated above, using the standard National Assoc. of Counties route marker.
Many other counties opt to use an older style of county route marker: a square white (or sometimes green) blank with the county name and route number in the center.
Federal Forest Highway & Forest Road Markers
Forest Highway Route Marker - Michigan
Forest Road Route Marker - Michigan
Forest Road Route Marker - Michigan
National Forest Scenic Byway Route Marker - Michigan
Federal Forest Highway route markers appear in several of Michigan's national forests. These are high-quality, well-maintained (usually all-weather) highways.
Secondary Forest Road sign, used on roads generally open to automobile travel and closed to ORV use. These roads can range from paved to one-lane gravel.
Low-Standard Forest Road signs are used for roads which may be open to motorized use or may be closed to all but ORV or foot traffic. These range from one-lane gravel to two-track.
The National Forest Scenic Byway sign is used in many places across the U.S., specificially in Michigan on the Black River Harbor Scenic Byway north of Bessemer.
Great Lakes Circle Tour Markers
Great Lakes Circle Tour Route Marker
Lake Erie Circle Tour Route Marker - Michigan
Lake Huron Circle Tour Route Marker - Michigan
Lake Huron Circle Tour Loop Route Marker - Michigan
The Great Lakes Circle Tour sign, used very sparingly in Michigan, although it does appear once in awhile.
The Lake Erie Circle Tour route marker, appearing in only two Michigan counties: Monroe and Wayne.
The Lake Huron Circle Tour route marker as it appears along Lake Huron shoreline routes in both peninsulas.
The Lake Huron Circle Tour Loop route marker is used in the DeTour Village area.
Lake Michigan Circle Tour Route Marker - Michigan
Lake Michigan Circle Tour Loop Route Marker - Michigan
Lake Michigan Harbor Tour Route Marker - Michigan
Lake Superior Circle Tour Route Marker - Michigan
The Lake Michigan Circle Tour route marker is found along many miles of Michigan trunkline.
The Lake Michigan Circle Tour Loop runs along M-109 in Leelanau Co.
The Lake Michigan Harbor Tour is a locally-posted route in the Saugatuck-Douglas area.
The Lake Superior Circle Tour route marker appears often throughout the U.P.
Lake Superior Circle Tour Loop Route Marker - Michigan
Lake Superior Circle Tour Scenic Spur Route Marker - Michigan
The Lake Superior Circle Tour Loop marker appears along at least two highways in the U.P.
The Lake Superior Circle Tour Scenic Spur runs via M-77 from Seney to Grand Marais.
Heritage Route (Michigan's Byways) Markers
Historic Heritage Route Marker - Michigan
Recreational Heritage Route Marker - Michigan
Scenic Heritage Route Marker - Michigan
Historic Heritage Route marker.
Recreational Heritage Route marker.
Scenic Heritage Route marker.
Other Route Markers
Blue Star Memorial Highway Route Marker - Michigan
Oceana Circle Tour Route Marker - Michigan
Michigan Polar-Equator Trail Route Marker
Red Arrow Highway Route Marker - Michigan
The Blue Star Highway route marker is used along a portion of the former route of US-31 in Van Buren Co.
The Oceana Circle Tour route marker appears along a locally-designated route in Muskegon and Oceana Cos.
The Polar Equator Trail route marker can be found in Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency and Alpena Cos.
The Red Arrow Highway route marker is used along the former route of US-12 in Van Buren and Berrien Cos.
Shoreline Trail Route Marker - Michigan
Sunrise Side Coastal Highway Route Marker - Michigan
US-41 Scenic Route Marker - Michigan
The Shoreline Trail route marker appears on a locally-designated route in Muskegon Co running along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
In 2004, US-23 from Standish to Mackinaw City was designated as the Sunrise Side Scenic Highway and these route markers are posted along the route.
This "US-41 Scenic Route" marker was used from the late-1960s until 1999 along US-41 in northern Keweenaw Co.


Acknowledgements:

Nearly every route marker image above was created by Christopher J. Bessert and, therefore, all original graphics are copyrighted ©2008-2013 Christopher J. Bessert, All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or otherwise use them without permission. Any commercial use is strictly prohibited. While certain components of these markers are not "copyrightable," these graphics are copyrighted. If you'd like to use one of them, please ask first!

However, some acknowledgements and credit are necessary.

Additional Information:

For more information on Michigan's state trunkline (and other) route markers, visit the following off-site sources: