Michigan Highways: Since 1997.

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M-22 & M-109 junction route signage in Glen Arbor, Michigan
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M-44 Route Marker On to Next Route:
Western Terminus1:   Jct I-96 & M-37 at the East Beltline Ave interchange with I-96 (at Exit 38) at Grand Rapids (signed—see note below)
Western Terminus2:   Jct M-11 & M-37 (cnr 28th St & East Beltline Ave/Broadmoor Ave) in Kentwood (see note below)
Eastern Terminus:     M-66 at Woods Corners, 6 miles north of Ionia (cnr Belding Rd & State Rd) in northern Ionia Co
Length1: 33.249 miles (signed length—see note below)
Length2: 37.464 miles (see note below)
Maps: Route Map of M-44
Notes: The westernmost portion of the route of M-44 has been rather... "elastic" or "in flux" over the past few decades. As such, the western terminus as described here shows both the currently signed end of the route at I-96 Exit 38 on the eastern edge of Grand Rapids as well as the possible official terminus of the route at jct M-11 & M-37 at the cnr of 28th St & East Beltline Ave/Broadmoor Ave in Kentwood. The reason for this is that the 4.13-mile segment of East Beltline Ave between I-96 and M-11/28th St was signed as M-37/M-44 from 1961–1977, as M-37 only from 1977–2003, as M-37/M-44 once again from 2003–2016, and again as just M-37 from 2016 to present. The reason for this truncation/re-extension/re-truncation over the years is not clear, although some theories persist. Until official establishment of the western terminus of M-44, whether it be at jct I-96 & M-37 at Exit 38—the signed terminus as of 2016 and "Terminus1/Length1" above—or at jct M-37 & M-11/28th St in Kentwood ("Terminus2/Length2" above) resulting in an unsigned segment of M-44 from I-96 to M-11/28th St, is made from official MDOT sources, the two possible western termini of M-44 will continue to be listed here.
  M-44 in the Grand Rapids area today occupies a portion of what was originally intended to be one of four legs in a complete Grand Rapids "Beltline" highway system, designated M-114. The southern and western legs of the beltline were designated along existing roads, today's 28th St and Wilson Ave, respectively. The eastern leg was built and called, obviously, East Beltline—a name which it retains today. The northern leg, which was to run, in part, via 3 Mile Rd, was never completed. Originally designated M-114, the eastern portion of the Beltline was once designated BYPASS US-131; then as the former routes though Grand Rapids became Business Connections, US-131 itself ran along the route. With the completion of the US-131 freeway through downtown Grand Rapids in the early-1960s, the portion of US-131 along East Beltline was redesignated as an extension of M-44.
  With the completion of a segment of US-131 freeway north of Grand Rapids in 1969, the former US-131/M-44 from M-44/Belding Rd south of Rockford to Plainfield Ave northeast of Grand Rapids became just M-44. Old US-131/Plainfield Ave south to I-96 at Exit 33 became CONNECTOR M-44.
  While physically running north-south along East Beltline Ave and Northland Dr from its western terminus to the Rockford area, M-44 is an east-west trending highway, and is signed as such. This has created a minor amount of confusion for some, though, since the road is named East Beltline, and the route is signed east-west; many assume the road runs east-west as well.
  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 change to the route of M-44 during that timeframe. They suggested converting the existing alignment of M-44 to a divided highway from the junction with US-131 (at present day Wolverine Blvd & Belding Rd) southeast of Rockford easterly to the western limits of the City of Belding. Similarly, the portion of M-44 from the eastern limits of the City of Belding to its eastern terminus at M-66 at Woods Corners was also proposed to be converted to a divided highway. Neither of these proposals were ever implemented.
History: 1920 (Dec 21) – Originally M-44 ran via a portion of its present-day routing, beginning at M-13 (later US-131) just south of Rockford, heading easterly through Belding. Near Orleans, M-44 turns south to follow Orleans, Meade and Haynor Rds, ending at M-21 in Ionia.
  c.1930 – M-44 is realigned to run due easterly from the Orleans area via Belding Rd to end at M-14 (present-day M-66) at Woods Corners.
  1939 – The final few miles of gravel-surfaced M-44 are paved, from the Kent/Ionia Co line to Belding.
  1956 (late-July) New! 2023-11 – A five-mile, four lane divided expressway US-131 bypass of Rockford in central Kent Co (present-day Wolverine Blvd) is completed and opened to traffic from Northland Dr near Brewer Rd south of Rockford northerly back to Northland Dr just north of 11 Mile Rd during the week of July 23. The western terminus of M-44 is scaled back by a tenth of a mile from the former US-131 route along Northland Dr to the new US-131 bypass route, while that short segment of former M-44 is temporarily retained as an unsigned state trunkline route.
  1957 (June 17) New! 2023-11 – The 0.1-mile segment of former M-44 along Belding Rd from former US-131 at Northland Dr easterly to the new US-131 Rockford Bypass (present-day Wolverine Blvd) is cancelled as a state trunkline route and turned back to county control approximately 11 months after the route changes were made in the field.
  1961 – M-44 is extended southerly from its western terminus concurrently with US-131 along East Beltline Ave to end at jct US-131/M-11/M-21/M-37/M-44 (East Beltline Ave & 28th St) southeast of Grand Rapids.
  1962US-131 is transferred off East Beltline Ave onto Plainfield Ave (formerly BUS US-131). M-44 continues southerly to M-21 at Fulton St, then concurrently with M-21 to M-11/28th St.
  1964 – The concurrent M-21 designation between Fulton St and 28th St is removed when M-21 is rerouted along I-196 through Grand Rapids.
  1967 (Early)–1969 (June, Aug 22) New! 2023-11 – The Dept of State Highways informs local agencies in the Grand Rapids area in early 1967 that, upon completion of the US-131 freeway segment from I-96 northerly past Rockford, several state trunkline route designation changes will be made in the region. Among them, the exisiting routing of US-131 along Plainfield Ave from the intersection of Northland Dr, Plainfield Ave & East Beltline Ave southwesterly to I-96 (at present-day Exit 33) is scheduled to become the new mainline route for M-44, with M-44 removed from East Beltline Ave between Plainfield Ave and I-96 (at present-day Exit 38) and that segment cancelled as a state trunkline route and turned back to county control. Opposition is uniformly against the proposed changes. Then, in June 1969, months before the changes would be made official, the MDSH notifies Grand Rapids and Plainfield Townships—but, interestingly not the City of Grand Rapids or the Kent Co Road Commission—of the imepending changes, but encounters the same opposition as two years prior. By August 22, 1969, Dept of State Highways director Henrik E Stafseth issues a letter to local representatives that no changes in trunkline status would occur until after traffic surveys are taken the following spring.
  1969 (Oct 29) – With the completion of a segment of US-131 freeway north of Grand Rapids, the former US-131/M-44 routing between M-44 south of Rockford and Plainfield Ave northeast of Grand Rapids becomes solely M-44. The former route of US-131 along Plainfield Ave south to I-96 (at present-day Exit 33) becomes CONNECTOR M-44 (CONN M-44). At the same time this new segment of US-131 is opened, the M-37 designation is re-routed around Grand Rapids—it formerly ran concurrently with M-11 along 28th St from Broadmoor–East Beltline westerly, then northerly via US-131 through the city, splitting off at I-96 to head northerly via Alpine Ave. Now, M-37 continues northerly with M-44 along East Beltline Ave to I-96, then runs concurrently with I-96 across the north side of Grand Rapids to Alpine Ave. (The M-44 designation is also maintained along East Beltline Ave between I-96 and M-11/28th St.)
  1970 (Mar 6, Oct 28) New! 2023-11 – The route of M-44/Belding Rd is modernized and improved through eastern Kent Co straigtening winding segments, removing sharper turns, improving sight lines and improving the horizontal alignment over the course of two projects:timeframe:
  • (Mar 6) – The 5.248-mile segment of M-44 along Belding Rd from Ramsdell Dr at Bostwick Lake easterly to Lincoln Lake Ave is cancelled as a state trunkline highway route and immediately re-established as a 5.068-mile route between the same points. In most places, the new highway either runs atop the old roadway or just north or south of it (where it is obliterated as a public roadway), while in a few spots the new alignment deviates more significantly. In those cases, the former route is turned back to county control and given the name Old Belding Rd.
  • (Oct 28) – Seven months later, the same thing occurs along M-44/Belding Rd from Lincoln Lake Rd easterly to about ¼ mile into Ionia Co when the 2.303-mile segment is cancelled as a state trunkline route and immediately re-established as a 2.312-mile highway—actually 0.09 mile longer—with the same characteristics as the Ramsdell–Lincoln Lake segment. No old sgments of M-44 remain in this area, though, as the new highway either obliterates the old roadway or it runs alongside the old route.
  1977 (Dec 16) New! 2024-03 – The first phase in a major effort to upgrade and widen M-37/M-44/East Beltline Ave along the eastern side of the Grand Rapids Metro area is completed when the nearly ¾-mile portion of the route from M-21/Fulton St northerly to the I-96 interchange is re-opened to traffic. The $1.8-million project upgraded the two-lane highway to a four-lane divided highway, including a new three-span bridge across the Grand Trunk Western Ry line between I-96 and Michigan St to accommodate the additional lanes.
  1977 – After eight years, the concurrent M-37/M-44 designation is removed when M-44 is scaled back to end at I-96 Exit 38 east of Grand Rapids. Four M-44 route markers still graced junction assemblies at jct M-11/28th St & M-37/East Beltline Ave through the 1990s, however.
  1991 – M-44 along East Beltline Ave undergoes a major reconstruction widening the formerly two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway with Michigan Lefts from I-96 northerly to CONN M-44/Plainfield Ave in Grand Rapids & Plainfield Townships. One source notes that money for this project came from the cancellation of the long-proposed "M-37 connector" between US-131 north of Grand Rapids and Alpine Ave southeast of Sparta.
  2003 (Aug) – In late-August, as a part of a complete sign rehabilitation along East Beltline Ave in Grand Rapids, the route of M-44 is "re-extended" south from its terminus at I-96 (Exit 38), concurrently with M-37 to end at M-11/28th St, where M-37 continues southerly toward Hastings and Battle Creek. MDOT had seemingly removed this redundant concurrency in 1977, but inexplicably re-adds it in 2003.
  2016 (May–June) – In a reversal of the August 2003 "re-extension" of M-44 from I-96 at Exit 38 on the eastern edge of Grand Rapids southerly to M-11/28th St as well as being a "re-truncation" reenacting MDOT's original removal of the M-44 designation from that portion of East Beltline Ave, the M-44 route markers are again removed from all of M-37/East Beltline Ave south of I-96. M-44's western terminus is, once again, I-96 at Exit 38. Much like the 2003 "re-extension" of M-44, this "re-truncation" comes as part of a road sign rehabilitation job along the East Beltline corridor.
Controlled Access: Freeway: None of M-44 is limited-access freeway.
  Expressway: The portion of M-44 along Wolverine Blvd from a point halfway between the Brewer Ave and Northland Dr intersections in northeastern Plainfield Twp to the intersection of Wolverine Blvd & Belding Rd southeast of Rockford is controlled-access. (1.1 miles)
NHS: M-44 from its western terminus at jct I-96 & M-37 at Grand Rapids to the intersection of Wolverine Blvd & Belding Rd southeast of Rockford is on the National Highway System (NHS). (8.74 miles) (The segment of M-44 from I-96 at Exit 38 to the intersection of Wolverine Blvd & Belding Rd was added to the NHS in 2012 with the passage of the MAP-21 funding and authorization bill.)
Business Connection: CONN M-44 Grand Rapids. Along Plainfield Ave from I-96/M-37 at Exit 33 in Grand Rapids to M-44 northeast of Grand Rapids (cnr Plainfield Ave & East Beltline Ave-Northland Dr).
Memorial Highways:  The following Memorial Highway designations have been officially assigned to parts of M-44 by the Michigan Legislature:
  • Michigan State Trooper Timothy O'Neill Memorial Highway – "The portion of highway M-44 in Kent County beginning at the intersection of highway M-44 and Rogue River Road and extending northeast to the intersection of highway M-44 and Belding Road..." From the Michigan Legislature: "Trooper Timothy J. O'Neill joined the Michigan State Police in 2014, after graduating as a member of the 126th Trooper Recruit School. Trooper O'Neill served at the Rockford Post and became a member of the Motor Unit in May 2017. On September 20, 2017, while riding his Department motorcycle in Plainfield Township, he was involved in a crash and suffered fatal injuries."
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