Michigan Highways: Since 1997.

Michigan Highways website header graphic
M-22 & M-109 junction route signage in Glen Arbor, Michigan
Back to Previous Route:
M-38 Route Marker On to Next Route:
Western Terminus:    Jct US-45/S Steel St & M-64 in Ontonagon, south of downtown
Eastern Terminus:    US-41 in Baraga at cnr Michigan Ave & US-41
Length: 42.064 miles
Maps: Route Map of M-38
Ontonagon State Trunkline Changes 2006
Notes: The current iteration of M-38 has been in existence since the late-1960s when it replaced the western disconnected part of the M-35 route from Baraga to the Greenland area.
  Construction on a new bridge spanning the Ontonagon River in Ontonagon began in 2005 and was completed in October 2006, replacing the 1939 swing bridge on M-64 at the western end of downtown. The new bridge, however, is approximately one-half mile upriver from the old span and, as such, several state trunkline route changes have taken place upon the opening of the bridge on October 11, 2006. A new alignment for M-38 was constructed beginning at Mercury St and bending westerly to an intersection with US-45/Steel St between Mercury and Steel Sts, where M-38 now has a new western terminus. Continuing westerly from this point is the relocated M-64. (See the Ontonagon State Trunkline Changes 2006 map.)
  In "State Trunkline Needs, 1960–1980," a set of maps prepared by the State Highway Dept's Office of Planning, Programming Division in 1960 showing possible additions, upgrades and improvements to the state trunkline system over the ensuing twenty years, MSHD staff recommended one major change to the route of M-38 during that timeframe, including:
  • Rerouting M-35, which in 1960 ran southwesterly with M-26 from the Greenland area through Mass City to a joint terminus with M-26 at US-45 near Rockland, onto a new state trunkline routing from Greenland northwesterly to Ontonagon. This proposal would actually come to pass in 1971 when US-45 was rerouted from its Rockland-to-Ontonagon segment to run via M-26 to Greenland, then west-northwesterly to Onontagon, athough US-45 was restored to its pre-1971 routing in 1973 when M-38 was extended west from Greenland to Ontonagon. (M-38 was the "replacement designation" for M-35 from Baraga westerly.)
History: 1913 – While the general route for Trunk Line 38 (T.L. 38) is generally settled upon, the only segments of the route which will be officially assumed into the state trunkline highway system this year are the portions in Sanilac Co. The overall route will run from T.L. 10 southeast of Saginaw easterly through Frankenmuth, Vassar, Mayville and Clifford to Marlette before jogging southerly with T.L. 53 to Burnside. There, T.L. 38 will run easterly to Brown City, then southerly before turning easterly again through Melvin before terminating at T.L. 19.
  1913 (July 5) – The first segments of Trunk Line 38 (T.L. 38) are officially established, all in Sanilac County, totalling 12.6 miles. Those segments are:
  • Marlette Rd from the Lapeer/Sanilac Co line west of Marlette easterly 1.0 mile to the western Marlette village limit.
  • Van Dyke Rd from the southern Marlette village limit southerly 2.2 miles with T.L. 53 to the Sanilac/Lapeer Co line.
  • From the southeastern Brown City city limit southerly via Maple Valley Rd then easterly along Galbraith Line Rd for a total of 6.9 miles to the western Melvin village limit.
  • Along Galbraith Line Rd from the eastern Melvin village limit for 2.5 miles to T.L. 19.
  1914 (June 19) – The 5.1 mile segment of W Saginaw Rd from the eastern Vassar city limit in Tuscola Co easterly to the Vassar/Fremont Twp line is officially established as a state trunkline route as part of T.L. 38.
  1914 (June 20) – One day later, several more segments of T.L. 38 are established as state trunkline segments in Tuscola and Lapeer Cos, including:
  • W Saginaw Rd from the Vassar/Fremont Twp line between Vassar and Mayville in Tuscola Co easterly for 5.0 miles to the western Mayville village limit.
  • Clifford Rd from the eastern Mayville village limit southeasterly for 8.1 miles to the western Clifford village limit in Tuscola and Lapeer Cos.
  • Marlette Rd from the eastern Clifford village limit easterly for 2.4 miles to the Lapeer/Sanilac Co line west of Marlette.
  • Van Dyke Rd from the Sanilac/Lapeer Co line south of Marlette southerly concurrently with T.L. 53 to Burnside, then easterly via Burnside Rd to the Lapeer/Sanilac Co line at Brown City, for a total of 9.1 miles.
  1914(?) – Official Michigan State Highway Dept Trunkline Determination Maps make note that for T.L. 38 between its western terminus at T.L. 10 southeast of Bridgeport and the west limits of Vassar in Saginaw and Tuscola Cos (with the exception of the portion through the Village of Frankenmuth), the "Determination is Missing," meaning the official records of when this portion of the trunkline is officially assumed into the overall system are no longer extant and the exact date of its transfer to state control is no longer known. Based on construction and other records as well as the fact that the remainder of T.L. 38 in Tuscola Co is established in 1914, it could be assumed this portion was similarly established in 1914.
  1919 (May 29) – The 1.0 mile segment of T.L. 38 along Main St (Galbraith Line Rd) through the Village of Melvin in Sanilac Co is officially established as a state trunkline highway segment.
  1919 (July 1) – T.L. 38 is signed in the field as M-38 as all state trunkline highways in Michigan are signed with route markers.
  1919 (Nov 14) – The ¾ mile of S Main St (Van Dyke Rd) from Marlette St in downtown Marlette southerly to the south Marlette village limit is officially established as a state trunkline along with M-53. (This is part of a 25.0-mile establishment for M-53 between Marlette and the Sanilac/Huron Co line.)
  1920 (Jan 29) – The 1.7 miles of M-38 through the City of Vassar from the south city limit northeasterly via S Main St into downtown, then southeasterly and south-southeasterly along E Huron Ave to the eastern city limit are officially established as state trunkline highway mileage.
  1920 (Apr 2) – M-38 through the Village of Clifford is officially assumed into the state trunkline highway system—that being the 2.125 miles of Clifford Rd from the west village limit easterly to Main St, then northerly via Main through downtown to Marlette Rd, then easterly again along Marlette to the east village limit.
  1920 (Apr 16) – The third incorporated community establishment for M-38 during 1920 comes when the 1.5 miles of M-38 in the City of Brown City in Sanilac Co is transferred to state control. This includes Main St from the west city limit easterly 1.0 mile to Maple Valley Rd, then southerly for ½ mile on Maple Valley to the southern city limit.
  1920 (June 19) – The final M-38 incorporated establishment for 1920 involves the entirety of the 1.0 mile of Main St through the Village of Mayville in Tuscola Co.
  1927 (Mar 26) – Almost 7½ after the M-38/M-53 concurrent segment within the Village of Marlette along Main St (Van Dyke Rd) is officially assumed into the trunkline system, the 0.7 mile of W Marlette St between M-53/Main St downtown and the west village limit is established as a state trunkline highway.
  1927 (Apr–May) – The length of M-38 is shortened when the portion of the route from M-53 at Burnside in northeast Lapeer Co easterly into Sanilac Co then through Brown City and Melvin to M-19 south of Peck is redesignated as part of a newly-designated M-90 route. The concurrent M-53/M-38 segment between Burnside in northeastern Lapeer Co and Marlette in west-central Sanilac Co along Van Dyke Rd becomes just M-53, with M-38 now terminating at M-53 in downtown Marlette. Overall, 23.9 miles is shaved off the eastern end of M-38, with the total length of the route now at 41.6 miles.
  c.1928–30M-83 debuts as a new highway route leading away from Frankenmuth in Saginaw Co heading northerly from M-38 in c.1928. While the route of M-83 southerly from Frankenmuth has been officially established, it will not be complete an open to traffic until c.1930, so during this timeframe, M-83 traffic is directed over M-38 between Frankenmuth and US-10/US-23 southeast of Bridgeport. Once M-83 is completed south of Frankenmuth, any M-83 route markers along M-38 are removed, however.
  1932 (Oct 29) – The only remaining segment of M-38 which has not yet been officially established as part of the state trunkline highway system—the 1.0 mile portion of Genesee St in the Village of Frankenmuth in Saginaw Co between the east and west village limits—is officially assumed into the system.
  1930 (Dec 2) – A 12-mile concurrent stretch with M-24 is created between Mayville and Vassar when M-24, which formerly terminated at M-21 in Lapeer, is extended northerly to Mayville, then northwesterly with M-38 to Vassar, then onward via present-day M-15 to a new terminus in downtown Bay City.
  1942 (April 18) Updated 2023-08 – The 12-mile concurrent segment with M-24 is whittled down to just 1½ miles as M-24 is realigned to run northerly from M-38 near Mayville toward Caro.
  1949 (Nov 10) – The concurrent M-24/M-38 designation is once again extended at Mayville, this time by 1.3 miles to the east of town as a new alignment of M-24 opens there.
  1954 (Jan 4) – The concurrent M-24/M-38 routing again changes at Mayville: This time a rerouting of M-24 north and west of town removes the concurrent segment to the west of Mayville, leaving only M-38 there. The 1.3-mile concurrent M-24/M-28 designation remains on the east side of town.
  1961 (Aug 11) – Nearly coinciding with the completion of a portion of the I-75/US-10/US-23 freeway in Saginaw Co near M-38's western terminus, the entirety of M-38 is cancelled as a state trunkline highway and it is turned back to local control. The only segments of M-38 remaining on the trunkline system are those where M-38 ran concurrently with other routes: M-15 for ½ mile in downtown Vassar and M-24 for 1.3 miles at Mayville. A total of 39.825 miles of trunkline mileage is abandoned, while M-38's final mileage was 41.375 miles. Thus ends the first iteration of M-38; a second iteration would appaer later in the decade, but this time in the Upper Peninsula, 435 miles away.
  1969 (Jan) – As part of a program by the Dept of State Highways to "eliminate all extraneous markings on state highways," the M-35 route west of Baraga is redesignated as M-38. The concurrent segment of M-26/M-35 in the Greeland-Mass City area becomes simply M-26 between (the new) M-38 and US-45, with M-38 ending at M-26. The formerly concurrent US-41/M-28/M-35 from Negaunee to US-141 near Covington becomes just US-41/M-28, while what had been US-41/M-35 from there to Baraga retains just the US-41 designation. M-35 now terminates at US-41/M-28 between Negaunee and Marquette.
  1971 (Oct 22) – With the rerouting of US-45 via M-26 to Greenland then northwesterly along the newly reconstructed Ontonagon-Greenland Rd toward Ontonagon, M-26 is scaled back to the new interection of US-45 one mile east of Greenland.
  1973 (June 26) – Two years after approving the Dept of State Highways' request to relocate US-45 in Ontonagon Co onto a portion of M-26 and then a newly reconstructed route between Greenland and Ontonagon, the U.S. Route Numbering Subcommittee of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) approves a request by the MDSH at its regular meeting held in Washington, D.C. to restore US-45 to its pre-1971 alignment between Rockland and Ontonagon. The Dept of State Highways then removes the US-45 route markers it erected in 1971 and erects them along the pre-1971 US-45 route along Rockland Rd via Rockland and northwesterly into Ontonagon. The M-26 designation is restored to its former routing from Greenland southwesterly through Mass City to US-45 southeast of Rockland. M-38 is then extended westerly concurrently with M-26 for approximately one mile east of Greenland and then northwesterly along Ontonagon–Greenland Rd replacing the US-45 designation (1971–1973) into Ontonagon.
  2001 (Oct 26) – Section 250.1045 of Act 142 of 2001, the Michigan Memorial Highway Act, included, "The portion of highway M-38 beginning at the Ontonagon village limit and extending east to the Houghton county line shall be known as the 'Joseph H. Meagher Memorial Highway'."
  2005 – Construction on a new Ontonagon River bridge at Ontonagon begins and will be complete in October 2006 (see "Notes" section above).
  2006 (Oct 11) – The new fixed-span Ontonagon River bridge opens at Ontonagon (see "Notes" section above). M-64 is diverted to cross the river via the new bridge and now terminates at US-45 several blocks south of its former junction with M-38. M-38 continues easterly from the new US-45 & M-64 junction before merging back into its former route on the east end of the village. The former route of M-38 from the new eastern bridge approach westerly to its former terminus at US-45 (cnr Steel St & River St) becomes an unsigned trunkline (as OLD M-38). (See the Ontonagon State Trunkline Changes 2006 map.)
  2007 (Oct 16) – Just over a year from its debut as an unsigned, old state trunkline route, the former route of M-38 from the new eastern Ontonagon River bridge approach westerly to M-38's former terminus at US-45 (cnr Steel St & River St) is transferred to local control as a village street. (See the Ontonagon State Trunkline Changes 2006 map.)
Controlled Access: No portion of M-38 is freeway or expressway.
NHS: M-38 is on the National Highway System (NHS). along its concurrency with M-26 east of Greenland in eastern Ontonagon Co. (1.1 miles) (The segment was added to the NHS in 2012 with the passage of the MAP-21 funding and authorization bill.)
Circle Tour: Lake Superior Circle Tour MarkerLake Superior Circle Tour: From the western terminus at US-45 in Ontonagon to the eastern jct of M-26 east of Greenland.
Memorial Highway: Joseph H. Meagher Memorial Highway – from the Ontonagon village limit easterly to the Ontonagon/Houghton Co line. From MDOT: "Joseph H. Meagher retired from Ontonagon County Road Commission in 1988 after 36 years of service. He was an engineer manager heavily involved in the development of M-38 and this dedication is in honor of his efforts. The Upper Peninsula Road Builders also has a memorial scholarship in his honor. He passed away Sunday, February 17, 1991 at his home alongside his wife Mildred." Mr Meagher was born November 26, 1925 and is interred in Evergreen Cemetery on M-38 in Ontonagon.
Back to M-37 Route Listings Home On to M-39