History: Mason County’s highways, US 10.

August 9, 2019

The SS Badger, shown here in a file photo taken at the Manitowoc, Wis. dock, is designated as part of route US 10.

History: Mason County’s highways, US 10.

MC History Spotlight is a weekly history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care. Each week this column features a story from our county’s past.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.


Three highways run through Mason County: US 31, north and south, US 10, east and west, and M-116 north and south. Today’s article will discuss US 10.

US 10 is an east-west United States highway that serves the Midwest with its eastern terminus in Bay City and its western terminus in West Fargo, North Dakota. The highway is unique for a couple reasons. Most US routes with a “0” as the last digit of its route number are cross-country highways, US 10 is not. Plus, US 10 extends over Lake Michigan, connected by the SS Badger carferry between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis., a route that was officially designated in 2015.

In the 1800s, the main road between the settlement and Lincoln (located near modern day Lincoln Hills Golf Club) and Sweetland (modern Scottville) was located south of where the railroad tracks are now located, in the general area of First Street. The road was very rough and used mainly by the lumber industry to haul supplies from Lincoln to the lumber camps on the eastern side of the county.

In 1857, the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad received a land grant from the United States government to build a railroad from Flint to Pere Marquette (later known as Ludington). Construction began in East Saginaw in 1859 and reached Ludington in 1874.

Not a lot is documented about when the existing route of US 10 was built between Ludington and the eastern Mason County line but it is likely that the building of the railroad impacted the route since the two run parallel with each other.
Prior to the beginnings of the interstates in the 1950s, US 10 was a key US highway in Michigan, and arguably still is. It originally began in the heart of downtown Detroit at a junction with US 12, US 16 and US 26, then continued through Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw and Midland, bending gradually west to cross the Lower Peninsula to meet the Ludington carferry fleet. From Manitowoc, it continued west to Seattle.

The highway has since been scaled back to its modern terminuses mentioned above.

In the 1920s, before the US highway system, the Ludington to Detroit route of US 10 included M-20 from Ludington to Midland, M-24 from Midland to Saginaw, and M-10 from Saginaw to Detroit. In 1926, after US 10 receives its official designation, M-20 is dropped down onto a route via Mt. Pleasant, Big Rapids, White Cloud, and Fremont, ending in Muskegon, ending at the newly designated US 31.

On May 15, 1927, the US Highway designations became official across Michigan and US 10 officially took over for the other routes. While it has been discussed for years that US 10 freeway should extend into Mason County, the freeway stretches from Bay City into Clare County, ending near Farwell.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, US 10 between what is now Pere Marquette Highway and the Scottville limits was widened from two lanes to five lanes. Over the last 30 years, that stretch of highway has been one of the deadliest in the state due to its design. Efforts have been made over the past eight years to make intersections more safe by including left turn signals. These efforts have reduced the amount of traffic crashes at the intersections of Jebavy Drive, Pere Marquette Highway, Meyers Road, and Brye Road.

In 1998, the entrance to the Lake Michigan Carferry docks was changed form the south end of William Street in Ludington to the south end of James Street. Formerly, US 10 continued westerly on Ludington Avenue and then an additional three blocks to William Street, then turned southerly for four blocks to the carferry docks. That area is now part of the Ludington Waterfront Park and Harborfront Marina. M-116 begins its western terminus at the intersection of Ludington Avenue and James Street where US 10 turns south.

Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100; www.ludingtonwoods.com.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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