History: Mason County’s highways, M-116.

August 19, 2019

History: Mason County’s highways, M-116.

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 M-116.

M-116 is a loved stretch of highway that presently begins at the intersection of Ludington Avenue (US 10) and James Street in the City of Ludington and ends at the Big Sable River in the Ludington State Park.

The highway was constructed as the first leg in a proposed Ludington to Manistee shoreline route that was supposed to be US 31 when completed.  However, the highway made it as far as its present northern terminus when local opposition prompted the state highway department to continue US 31 on its existing route. See related story on US 31.

In 1928, a 5.1 mile shoreline trunkline, from the north city limit of Ludington to the Big Sable River, is designated, though the road is not completed for several more years. In 1931, an additional mile of trunkline is designated from the southern end of M-116, at the Ludington city limit, south 1 mile to the corner of Lake Shore Drive and Ludington Avenue and then Ludington Avenue east to US 10 (Robert Street). At this time, the route within the city limits is the only portion of M—116 that is completed and open to traffic.

In 1933, a new 3.89 mile long alignment of M-116 in Hamlin Township from Jagger Road to just south of the Big Sable River is open to the public. This new alignment is closer to the shoreline than the 1928 alignment.

The bridge over the Big Sable River is completed in 1934 with the north end of M-116 officially designated in 1935. M-116’s eastern terminus again ends at Robert Street on Ludington Avenue.

As covered in our story on the history of US 31, that highway once approached Ludington, from the south, and turned west on Sixth Street to Madison Street, then north on Madison to Second Street, and then west to Washington Avenue and north to Ludington Avenue (US 10). In 1936, a “bypass” of Ludington was completed and travelled north from Sixth Street to US 10 (this is modern Pere Marquette Highway). At that time, the above mentioned route became part of M-116. This only lasts for one year when the highway is turned back to local control. 

In the 1940s, state highway maps indicated an additional 6.237 miles of roadway north from the Big Sable River into the Nordhouse Dunes was scheduled to be graded with drainage structures installed, possibly as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. This was not part of the modern access road to Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

In 1942, the route of US 10 to the carferry docks is moved over one block from Robert Street to William Street, shorting M-116 one block.

In 1998 when the routings of US 10 and M-116 are changed in downtown Ludington. Waterfront Park and Harbor Front Condominiums and Marina had been built in an area bordered by Rath Avenue on the east, Filer Street on the north, William Street on the east, and the carferry docks and railroad yard on the south. Because of this, US 10 was re-routed south from the intersection of Ludington Avenue and James Street, to the carferry docks. M-116 was then extended east to James Street.

In December 2014, Gov. Rick Snyder authorized a portion of M-116 to be named The Paul K. Butterfield II Memorial Highway, in honor of Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield who was murdered during a traffic stop in Mason County’s Free Soil Township in 2012.

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

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