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M-22 & M-109 junction route signage in Glen Arbor, Michigan
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M-120 Route Marker On to Next Route:
Western Terminus:    BUS US-31 in the northern part of Muskegon (cnr Veterans Memorial Dr & Skyline Dr)
Eastern Terminus:    Downtown Hesperia at M-20 (cnr Division St & South St)
Length: 27.902 miles
Maps: Route Map of M-120
M-20/M-120/M-82 Maps (1969–1971)
Notes: The vast majority of the present-day M-120 was formerly designated as the westermost portion of the route of the nearly cross-state route of M-20, which has begun on its eastern end in either Bay City or Midland since the late-1920s. On the western end, until 1969, M-20 ran from Big Rapids southwesterly through White Cloud, Fremont, and Twin Lake, terminating on the north side of Muskegon, thereby linking two of Michigan's larger cities: Muskegon and Bay City, at first, then Muskegon and Midland in later years. As part of a major project to realign state trunkline routes in the west-central portion of the state centered on the greater Fremont/Newaygo/White Cloud region—some of which were implemented, some of which were not—M-20 was realigned to run nearly due westerly from M-37 north of White Cloud in Newaygo Co, through Hesperia, across southern Oceana Co, terminating at US-31 near New Era. The former portion of M-120 between Muskegon and west of Fremont was given the M-120 designation, which had been made available by the "decommissioning" of the previous M-120 in Hillsdale Co approximately eight years prior and to connect the new M-120 its "parent" route (M-20), the new M-120 is run concurrently with M-82 from west of Fremont northerly to a joint terminus (with M-82) at M-20 in Hesperia. (A decade later, the concurrent M-82 designation was removed from M-120 between Hesperia and west of Fremont.)
  One long-lasting relic of M-120's time as part of M-20 was the exit signage along nbd US-31 near North Muskegon which noted "Fremont/Big Rapids" as the two primary destinations for those exiting at M-120, even though to reach Big Rapids from M-120, one needs to drive 45 miles along two additional highways. (Prior to 1969, however, the signs would have been completely correct.) During a routine freeway sign replacement project on US-31 in 2008, however, MDOT likely finally realized this enduring vestiage of the past needed to be retired and now the nbd signs simply read "M-120 – Fremont." Another vestage is that M-120 is signed, in the field, as an east-west route even though the route is almost twice as long in the north-south direction as it is from east to west! (e.g. The maximum difference between the northernmost and southernmost points on the route is 22 miles, while the same maximum between the eastermost and westermost points is slightly more than 10 miles.) So, M-120 should technically be signed as a north-south route, but as it is signed east-west by MDOT in the field, it is designated as such here as well with western and eastern termini as well.
  While in many cases, three-digit route numbers on Michigan state highways have no connection with any of the highways they intersect with, meaning they are not "child routes" of a "parent route," in the same way that three-digit Interstate and U.S. Highway routes are. However, M-120 is one of those state highways which is numbered as a child route of a parent route, in this case M-20.
  A prior iteration of M-120 existed from 1939–61 running along the Ohio state line in Hillsdale and Lenawee Cos, never straying farther than 0.8 mile (about 4,100 feet) from the state line, even running along the state line itself for 2.15 miles at one point. This version of M-120 ran along Territorial Rd and formed part of a 155-mile-long, three-state route numbered 120, with Ohio SR-120 leading away from the eastern end of M-120 near Morenci heading toward Tolego and Indiana SR-120 leading away from the western end toward an eventual terminus in Elkhart. For a little over two decades, the three-state IN SR-120/M-120/OH SR-120 route ran roughly parallel, ironically, to the route of US-20 which runs across northern Ohio and Indiana and, for a time, began and ended at US-20 and even ran concurrently with that route west of Toledo. While the portions of the route in the others states were never the most major thoroughfares, the segment of M-120 in Michigan was a very minor highway, maintained to minimal trunkline standards, and really not connecting any major population centers within the state. For those reasons, the State Highway Dept chose to decommission the highway in 1969, leaving a gap in the middle of the formerly three-state-route, which still exists as such today.
  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-120 during that timeframe: complete removal. M-120 was shown in its entirety as a "Turnback Route" to be transferred to county control, as at that time, it ran along the Ohio state line in southern Hillsdale and Lenawee Cos. Indeed, within a decade, the entirety of the second iteration of M-120 was turned back to local control as recommended in 1960.
History: 1930 (Jun 30) – A new, 0.7-mile long state trunkline spur route is created when Logan St in northwest Lansing from US-16/Grand River Ave northerly to Sheridan Rd on the Ingham/Clinton Co line is transferred to the state. The new highway is designated M-120 and serves a complex of state facilities clustered along that portion of Logan.
  1939 (June 15) – The M-120 designation along Logan St in Lansing is replaced with the M-174 route number which had formerly been used on the Buchanan spur in Berrien Co from 1930–38, freeing up the number for re-use along a multi-state highway featuring the 120 route number along the Michigan–Ohio and Indiana–Michigan state lines. At an opening celebration for the new State Highway Dept District 3 Headquarters in Cadillac, the upcoming establishment of Morenci Rd from US-127 easterly through Morenci to the Ohio state line as a new M-120 routing is announced, along with the eventual extension of the future M-120 to the west of US-127 through southernmost Hillsdale Co to a connection with the new IN SR-120.
  1939 (Jul 13) – Morenci Rd from US-127/Meridian Rd on the Hillsdale/Lenawee Co line easterly through Morenci (via Main St) to the Ohio state line (connection w/OH SR-568) two miles east of downtown Morenci is established as a state trunkline route and transferred to state control and designated M-120. Interestingly, official state maps show M-120 continuing westerly for an additional 24.1 miles through southern Hillsdale Co via Territorial Rd to the Indiana state line (connection w/IN SR-120), even though the Hillsdale Co portion has not yet been transferred. It's assumed the western portion of M-120 in Hillsdale Co is a marked-and-maintained route, signed as M-120 and maintained by the MSHD but still technically under county ownership.
  1940 (Nov 12) – Territorial Rd in Hillsdale Co from the Indiana state line (connection w/IN SR-120) easterly to jct M-120 & US-127 on the Hillsdale/Lenawee Co line is officially transferred to state control and as an extension of M-120.
  1961 (June–July) – After rebuilding M-120 to modern highway standards, the State Highway Dept cancels M-120 as a state trunkline route and turns back control of the highway to the counties and city through which it passes, thereby breaking the three-state continuous 120-numbered route in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.
  • (Jun 21) – The Lenawee Co portion of M-120, from the Ohio state line east of Morenci to US-127, is cancelled and transferred back to local control.
  • (Jul 11) – The Hillsdale Co portion of M-120, from the Indiana state line easterly to US-127, is also cancelled and transferred to local control, signaling the end of the second iteration of M-120.
  1969M-20 is rerouted to run due westerly from the White Cloud area through Hesperia to New Era. The portion of the former route of M-20 from BUS US-31 at Muskegon northeasterly via Twin Lake to M-82 west of Fremont is designated as M-120. From the jct with M-82 northerly to Hesperia, M-120 is concurrently designated with M-82 to a common terminus at the new M-20 routing.
  1970 (Feb 3) – The 1970 Michigan Official Highway Map is released by the Dept of State Highways... but with changes indicated that aren't going to be reflected in reality until July. Specifically, the M-20 realignment along One Mile Rd between White Cloud and Hesperia in Newaygo Co is shown as complete (albeit without an M-20 symbol on the map) even though the road will not be complete until July 1. From Hesperia to US-31 at New Era, what had been M-82 is now shown on the map sans route designation! The former M-20 between Muskegon and "Fremont Junction" west of Fremont is shown as M-120, but terminating at "Fremont Junction" instead of continuning northerly supplanting the M-82 designation to Hesperia, which is what the Dept of State Highways had anticipated being the case come July. Because of the premature mapping changes, State Highways maintenance workers hastily erect new route markers largely conforming to what is depicted on the map: M-120 now takes the place of M-20 from Muskegon northeasterly to "Fremont Junction," but also runs concurrently with M-82 to Hesperia (even though the original plan was to remove M-82 from this segment of highway). M-82 signs are swapped out for M-20 markers between New Era and Hesperia and removed from the White Cloud-to-Fremont Junction route. (The former M-20 from White Cloud to M-82 east of Fremont is simply an unsigned trunkline, while M-20/M-82 from that point west through Fremont to "Fremont Junction" is signed only as M-82 now.) However, since the One Mile Rd alignment is not yet complete, M-20 is temporarily a discontinuous route due to the mapping issues and the rushed route signing changes caused by it. See: M-20/M-120/M-82 Maps (1969–1971) for a graphical depiction.
  1971 (Sept 15) New! 2024-02 – A short 0.161-mile highway segment in North Musekgon is cancelled as a state trunkline and turned back to local control. The 850-foot section had formerly been the mainline route of US-31 as approached the M-20 intersection at the north end of what is now the Veterans Memorial Causeway at the head of Muskegon Lake. In 1931–32, the Causeway is constructed as two widely-separated roadways with a park-like area in the middle. At the north end of the new Causeway, the roadways merged and continued north, intersecting then-M-20 (present-day M-120) on Lake Ave/Holton Rd approximately 275 ft east of the previous junction. The existing 850-foot segment of US-31 then becomes a one-way cut-off "ramp" for sbd US-31 traffic departing Lake Ave and heading onto the Veterans Memorial Causeway and Muskegon. Jumping forward four decades and M-213—the spur trunkline route serving Muskegon State Park from US-31 at North Muskegon—is decommissioned in its entirety and "cut-off" from the cancelled is also turned back to local control, although the cut-off itself remains in existence for more than a decade longer, only being obliterated in the early- to mid-1980s.
  c.1978 – Since the final seven miles of both M-82 and M-120 were co-signed with each other, it was inevitable one would lose out and be truncated back to "Fremont Junction" (jct M-82 and M-120 west of Fremont.) That's exactly what happened in the late 1970s. The first Official Michigan Highway Map without the concurrent M-82/M-120 routing from west of Fremont to Hesperia was issued in 1979, implying the M-82 designation was scaled back in the 1978 season. The Official map has been less-than-accurate before, however, so the exact time of the change is unclear. (It was likely the 1970 mapping error—see above—that allowed M-82 to continue to be concurrently designated with M-120 between "Fremont Junction" and Hesperia in the first place for nearly an entire decade!)
Controlled Access: No portion of M-120 exists as freeway or expressway.
NHS: The portion of M-120 from its southern terminus at BUS US-31 northerly to US-31 at Exit 118 northeast of North Musekgon is on the National Highway System (NHS).
Pure Michigan Byway: Historic Heritage Route MarkerWest Michigan Pike Historic Byway : From the southern terminus of M-120 at BUS US-31 on the north side of Muskegon to jct US-31 at Exit 118 northeast of North Muskegon.
Circle Tour: Lake Michigan Circle Tour MarkerLake Michigan Circle Tour: From the southern terminus of M-120 at BUS US-31 in Muskegon to US-31 northeast of North Muskegon.
Memorial Highways:  The following Memorial Highway designations have been officially assigned to parts of M-120 by the Michigan Legislature:
  • Veteran's Memorial Causeway – from the intersection of Whitehall Rd & Lake Ave–Holton Rd in North Muskegon southerly for exactly one mile (at approximately the Middle Branch of the Muskegon River bridge). From MDOT: "Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines a veteran as 'a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.' This definition explains that any individual that completed a service for any branch of armed forces classifies as a veteran as long as they were not dishonorably discharged."
  • Deputy Ernest W. Heikkila Memorial Highway – "The portion of highway M-120 in Muskegon County between E. Bard Road and 4th Street..." From the Michigan Legislature: "Deputy Ernest Heikkila was responding to a vehicle accident on February 15, 1995, when his cruiser was hit by a truck driven by a volunteer firefighter. Deputy Heikkila was traveling north on M-120 when his vehicle was broadsided by the fire truck at the intersection of Riley-Thompson. Witnesses told police that icy roads caused by freezing rain may have contributed to the accident. Deputy Heikkila died at the scene. He had been with the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department for 20 years. He was 50 years old."
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