Roads and Freeways in Metropolitan Detroit

The Roads and freeways in metropolitan Detroit comprise the main thoroughfares in the region. The freeways consist of an advanced network of interconnecting freeways which include Interstate highways. The Metro Detroit region's extensive toll-free expressway system, together with its status as a major port city, provide advantages to its location as a global business center. There are no toll roads in Michigan.

Traditionally, Detroiters referred to their freeways by name rather than route number. That is still true today, with many Detroiters calling the freeways by their names, but numbers are in use as well. Other freeways are referred to only by number as in the case of I-275 and M-59: their names, if any, were never in common everyday usage. M-53, while not officially designated, is commonly called the Van Dyke Expressway. Detroit area freeways are typically sunken below ground level to permit local traffic to pass over the freeway.

Following a historic fire in 1805, Justice Augustus B. Woodward devised a plan similar to Pierre Charles L'Enfant's design for Washington, D.C. Detroit's monumental avenues and traffic circles fan out in a baroque styled radial fashion from Grand Circus Park in the heart of the city's theater district, which facilitates traffic patterns along the city's tree-lined boulevards and parks. The 'Woodward plan' proposed a system of hexagonal street blocks, with the Grand Circus at its center. Wide avenues, alternatively 200 feet (61 m) and 120 feet (37 m), would emanate from large circular plazas like spokes from the hub of a wheel. As the city grew these would spread in all directions from the banks of the Detroit River. When Woodward presented his proposal, Detroit had fewer than 1,000 residents. Elements of the plan were implemented. Most prominent of these are the five main "spokes" of Woodward, Michigan, Gratiot, Grand River and Jefferson Avenues.

The Mile Road System in Metro Detroit and Southeast Michigan facilitates ease of navigation in the region. It was established as a way to delineate east–west roads through the Detroit area and the surrounding rural rim. The Mile Road system, and its most famous road, 8 Mile Road, came about largely as a result of the Land Ordinance of 1785, which established the basis for the Public Land Survey System in which land throughout the Northwest Territory was surveyed and divided into survey townships by reference to a baseline (east–west line) and meridian (north–south line). In Southeast Michigan, many roads would be developed parallel to the base line and the meridian, and many of the east–west roads would be incorporated into the Mile Road System.

The Mile Road System extended easterly into Detroit, but is interrupted, because much of Detroit's early settlements and farms were based on early French land grants that were aligned northwest-to-southeast with frontage along the Detroit River and on later development along roads running into downtown Detroit in a star pattern, such as Woodward, Jefferson, Grand River, Gratiot, and Michigan Avenues, developed by Augustus Woodward in imitation of Washington, D.C.'s system. As Detroit grew, several Mile Roads were given new names within the city borders, while some roads incorporated as part of the Mile Road System have traditionally been known by their non-mile names. It is unclear if they ever bore mile numbers formally.

The baseline used in the survey of Michigan lands runs along 8 Mile Road, which is approximately eight miles directly north of the junction of Woodward Avenue and Michigan Avenue in downtown Detroit. As a result, the direct east–west portion of Michigan Avenue, and M-153 (Ford Road) west of Wyoming Avenue, forms the "zero mile" baseline for this mile road system.

The precise point of origin is located in Campus Martius Park, marked by a medallion embedded in the stone walkway. It is situated in the western point of the diamond surrounding Woodward Fountain, just in front of the Fountain Bistro.

Read more about Roads And Freeways In Metropolitan Detroit:  Freeways, Mile Roads Traveling South, The North–south Mile Grid, Irregularities in The Gridline Alignment, See Also

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