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M-54
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M-56
Western Terminus:    US-31 two miles northeast of Manistee (cnr Chippewa Hwy & Caberfae Hwy)
Eastern Terminus:    US-23 in downtown Tawas City (cnr of Hemlock Rd & Lake St)
Length: Updated 150.980 miles
Maps: Route Map of M-55
Notes: One of only three cross-peninsular state (M-numbered) highways in the Lower Peninsula. The other two are M-46 (Muskegon-to-Port Sanilac) and M-72 (Empire-to-Harrisville). In addition, M-55 is often used as a convenient "dividing line" in the Lower Peninsula (eg. separating firearm/bow hunting zones, etc).
  Along its course, M-55 crosses the magnificent Cooley Bridge over the Manistee River east of Wellston. The following excerpt was taken from the book "Historic Highway Bridges of Michigan" by Charles K Hyde (1993, Wayne State University Press, ISBN 0-8143-2448-7):
M-55 Mortimer E. Cooley Bridge (1935) over the Pine River, 21 miles east of Manistee, Manistee County, Deck Truss, Cantilevered. The State Highway Department designed this bridge, named in honor of Mortimer E. Cooley, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan from 1904 to 1928. The Cooley Bridge, with its total length of 555 feet, is notable on aesthetic grounds as well; it won the American Institute of Steel Construction Award for the most beautiful structure in its class built during 1935.
More information and a photo of the bridge at MDOT's website.
  New! 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 many changes to M-55 during that timeframe, including:
  • Possibly constructing a more direct alignment for M-55 beginning at the Cadillac Country Club on the south shore of Lake Mitchell due easterly to the (former) southern jct of M-55 & M-115 (Sunnyside Dr & Cadillac Hwy) to eliminate the ½-mile concurrent segment with M-115. It's unclear from the maps if this was an actual proposal by the planners or if it was mapping error. Either way, this concept has never been implemented.
  • (An interesting aside: On the 1960 planning maps, an easterly US-131 freeway bypass of Cadilac is shown as proposed, but M-55 was shown as remaining on its pre-2000 through-town routing instead of being transferred to the bypass alignment. Additionally, no northern Cadillac area interchange was planned at 34 Rd and the planners had routed the proposed BUS US-131 easterly from downtown concurrently with M-55 to a northern terminus at the interchange with the proposed US-131 bypass.)
  • Constructing a more direct alignment for M-55 in southwestern Misaukee Co from the corner of Cadillac & Hillbrand Rds due easterly to M-66, one mile south of the present southern jct of M-55 & M-66. The new alignment would have likely required at least three bridges spanning the Clam River. Fourteen years later, a realignment for M-55 in this area was completed, but running east-northeasterly north of the Cadillac Rd routing. While the route eventually chosen required more new highway miles to be constructed, it was likely cheaper than the due-easterly alignment with several Clam River crossings.
  • Returning M-55 to its pre-1949 routing at Houghton Lake via "The Heights" (along what was then BUS M-55) and converting the portion of the route from the proposed US-27 freeway easterly to the western jct of M-18 at Prudenville to a unlimited-access divided highway. The former route of M-55 along Calkins Rd/Federal Ave from US-27 easterly to Houghton Lake Dr was to be turned back to local control. The first portion of this proposal was implemented within a year when BUS M-55 at Houghton Lake was replaced by its parent route and the old alignment along Calkins Rd/Federal Ave was turned back to the county. Converting the US-27–to–M-18 segment to a divided highway instead amounted to widening the highway to a five-lane cross section with continuous left turn lanes.
  • (Another interesting aside: The proposed route of I-75 in Roscommon and Ogemaw Cos in 1960 had it running quite far southwest of its eventual alignment, effectively avoiding the West Branch area. Because of that, the planning maps continued to show M-55 on its pre-1973 alignment in eastern Roscommon and western Ogemaw Cos., although the State Highway Dept was still planning on decommissioning M-76 in favor of the I-75 routing.)
History: 1915 (Dec 4) New! – A 2.5-mile segment of state trunkline highway along the southern shore of Lake Cadillac in the City of Cadillac is assumed into the state trunkline highway system as T.L. 55 (later signed as M-55), along Sunnyside Dr from 41 Rd westerly to the western city limit of Cadillac.
  1916 (July 18) New! – 14.2 miles of state trunkline highway are determined as T.L. 55 (later M-55) in Roscommon and Missaukee Cos from Houghton Lake, westerly. From the northern end of a realignment for T.L. 14 (later M-14, then US-27)—determined on the same day—at the corner of Loxley Rd & Federal Ave-Calkins Rd south of Houghton Lake Heights in Roscommon Co, the first segment of T.L. 55 (later M-55) continues north via Loxley Rd to Heightsview Dr, westerly via Heightsview Dr to present-day M-55, then westerly via present-day M-55 into Missaukee Co to existing T.L. 14/Merritt Rd (later M-74) at Merritt and from T.L. 14/Star City Rd (later M-74) westerly to Seven Mile Rd at Keelans Corners. A second segment is determined running from T.L. 14/Star City Rd (later M-74) westerly to Seven Mile Rd at Keelans Corners. (The 2 mile segment between Merritt Rd and Star City Rd had been part of T.L. 14 [later M-74] for two years.)
  1919 (July 1) New! – T.L. 55 is signed in the field as M-55 as all state trunkline highways in Michigan are signed with route markers.
  1919 (Aug 26) New! – A 21.2-mile segment of M-55 connects the "dangling end" of the existing M-55 at Keelans Corners in central Missaukee Co with the City of Cadillac in Wexford Co. Beginning at the western end of M-55 at Seven Mile Rd in Missaukee Co, the new trunkline route continues due west to present-day M-66 at Lake City, turns southerly through downtown Lake City via Main St and Morey Rd to Blue Rd, west two miles on Blue Rd, southerly for a mile via Dickerson Rd, and westerly via Cadillac Rd (Missaukee Co) and E Division St (Wexford Co) to a new terminus at the eastern city limit of Cadillac at Crosby Rd.
  1920 (Aug 10) New! – The state jurisdiction of M-55 is extended further into the City of Cadillac. From the west, segments of Sunnyside Dr (41 Rd to Granite St), Granite St (Sunnyside Dr to Mitchell St), and Mitchell St (Granite St to Howard St) are officially determined as state trunkline highway routes (with the Mitchell St segment concurrently signed with M-13, later US-131, now BUS US-131). On the east, E Division St from Crosby Rd to Harris St and Harris St from E Division St to Shelby St is likewise assumed into the state trunkline highway system as part of M-55. It is asumed this segment of roadway has been signed as part of M-55, but is now officially under the jurisdiction of the State Highway Dept.
  1923 (Apr 4) New! – An additional 6.2 miles of M-55 are determined on the south shore of Houghton Lake in Roscommon Co, beginning at M-14 (later US-27) the corner of Loxley Rd & Federal Ave-Calkins Rd south of Houghton Lake Heights, continuing easterly via Federal Ave and then the present-day route of M-55 via Houghton Lake Dr to M-18 in downtown Prudenville.
  1925 (Sept 1) New! – M-55 is extended for approximately one mile from Prudenville northeasterly concurrently with M-18. From that point, 11.7 miles of new state trunkline highway route is determined from M-18 northeast of Prudenville due easterly via West Branch Rd to M-76 south of Saint Helens. M-55 is then extended concurrently with M-76 to the east into Ogemaw Co into West Branch. On this same day, the route of M-76 between West Branch in Ogemaw Co and Sterling in Arenac Co is drastically altered. This results in the M-55 designation being extended easterly along the former route of M-76 from West Branch to Prescott. From Prescott, M-55 is extended easterly supplanting the route of M-70 via Greenwood Rd ½ mile, northly along Black Rd for a mile, jogging easterly on Craun Rd, then continuing northeasterly and northerly via Black Rd, turning easterly to run along Mills Rd (Ogemaw Co) and Prescott Rd (Iosco Co), terminating at M-10 (later US-23, now M-65) at Whittemore.
  1927 (June 30) New! – A new 4.4-mile alignment for M-55/M-76 in eastern Roscommon and western Ogemaw Cos, beginning at the western jct of the two routes and continuing southeasterly, is determined as a state trunkline highway route on this date, although State Highway Dept records state this same route was surfaced and open for traffic in 1925. The former 4.8-mile trunkline alignment—which may have never been physically constructed—is turned back to local control or, in the case of a never-built alignment, simply cancelled as a trunkline route.
  1928 (May 7) New! – The route of M-55/M-66 through Lake City from the northern jct of M-55 & M-66 on the north edge of town southerly to Jennings Rd is simultaneously "cancelled" (removed from the state trunkline highway system) and "determined" (added to the system) on this day. This is likely due to multiple minor adjustments to the route of the highway.
  1929 (Oct 1) New! – M-55 is realigned in eastern Ogemaw and western Iosco Cos. From the intersection of Clark Rd & Tawas Rd, M-55 now runs due easterly via Tawas Rd along 7.1 miles of newly determined trunkline route to end at US-23, three miles north of Whittemore (present-day jct of M-55 & M-65). Approximately 8 miles are shaved from the route length. The former portion of M-55 southerly into Prescott via Clark and Harrison Rds becomes an extension of M-70, while the remainder between Prescott and Whittemore is turned back to county control.
  1931–1933 New! – The Cadillac–Manistee segment of M-55 is added to the state trunkline system during this timeframe, specifically:
  • 1931 (Mar 24) New! – The first 13.81 miles of M-55 running easterly from US-31 northeast of Manistee (at Parkdale) to Udell Hills Rd in northwestern Norman Twp in Manistee Co are assumed into the state trunkline system and opened to traffic at some point during the year. The route utilizes an all-new alignment from US-31 east to Franklin Rd east of Eastlake and from Skocelas Rd easterly to Udell Hills Rd, while the segment in between runs along an existing county road.
  • 1931 (Mar 24) New! – On the same day, a 7.80 mile segment of M-55 from 21 Rd in Wexford Co's Henderson Twp south of Boon easterly to the western intersection of Locust Dr (at the Cadillac Country Club) is determined as a state trunkline route and opens to traffic during the year.
  • 1932 (Mar 12) New! – An additional 4.39 miles of M-55 on all new alignment are assumed into the state trunkline system on March 12 from Udell Hills Rd easterly to Seaman Rd at Wellston in Manistee Co's Norman Twp with the highway open to traffic during the year.
  • 1932 (May 13) New! – The westernmost 3.01 miles of M-55 in Wexford Co is assumed into the state trunkline highway system from the Manistee Co line easterly to 7 Rd and likely opened to traffic at this time. For the next year, M-55 traffic seems to be directed southerly along 7 and 7½ Rds, east on 48 and 46 Rds, then back north via 21 Rd to the segment of M-55 added in early 1931, although this alignment was never determined as a state trunkline routing and was likely only a temporary routing.
  • 1932 (Oct 29) New! – 6.12 more miles of M-55 are determined as state trunkline highway from Seaman Rd at Wellston easterly to the Wexford Co line, except for 0.79 miles at the Mortimer E. Cooley Bridge, which is not yet complete and open to traffic. The remainder of M-55 between Wellston and the Manistee-Wexford Co line is opened to traffic at some point during the year, with traffic crossing the Pine River via Low Bridge Rd with the Cooley Bridge not yet complete.
  • 1933 (Mar 14) New! – The last 7.08 mile segment of the route of M-55 between Cadillac and Manistee is assumed into the state trunkline highway system, beginning at 7 Rd in Wexford Co's South Branch Twp running easterly to 21 Rd in Henderson Twp. The entire Cadillac–Manistee segment is hard-surfaced by 1936.
  1932 (Aug 6) Updated – The route of M-55 is extended on the east by 14.5 miles along a leg of the former US-23 from present-day M-65 to end in downtown Tawas City. At this time, M-55 runs roughly along its present-day routing between its present-day termini.
  1935 (Jan 7) Updated – A 2.0-mile segment of new alignment M-55 is determined running directly between Federal Ave and Loxley Rd at Houghton Lake Heights in Roscommon Co. The former route along Federal Ave retains the US-27 designation, while the Loxley Rd alignment from US-27/Federal Ave-Calkins Rd northerly to M-55 is retained as a state trunkline highway, the exact designation of which is not clear. It may have been signed as a US-27/M-55 connector route and/or it may have been signed as M-169, a designation given to the short connector route which superceeded the Loxley Rd route in 1940.
  1935 (Oct 28) Updated – The magnificent Mortimer E. Cooley Bridge over the Pine River east of Wellston is completed and opened to traffic. The 0.79 miles of highway that comprises the bridge and its approaches is officially added to the state trunkline system on this day. See note above for more information.
  1936 (Feb 6) New! – A 0.47-mile segment of M-55 is determined as a state trunkline route from the eastern end of the 1931 segment (see above) at the Cadillac Country Club continuing easterly to approximately the western city limit of Cadillac. (This segment had been paved during 1935 and it is unclear why it was added four years after the segment immediately to the west.)
  1938 (Dec 6, Dec 22) Updated – On December 6, the 14.4-mile segment of M-55 running along 1st St and State St in West Branch then easterly via State Rd through Selkirk and then southerly along Henderson Lake Rd to Tawas Rd is turned back to local control, even though the replacement for that segment—directly east from M-76 at West Branch for 11.0 miles via Tawas Rd to Henderson Lake Rd—is not officially assumed into the state trunkline system for another 16 days. On December 22, the 11.0 mile portion of Tawas Rd from M-76 at West Branch then easterly is officially determined as a trunkline route as part of a relocated M-55. This rerouting shortens the course of M-55 by 4½ miles.
  1942 (Jan 28) New! – The 1.5-mile former alignment of M-55 along Loxley Rd between US-27 and M-55 in Houghton Lake Heights bypassed by a new alignment in 1935 is turned back to local control.
  1945 (June 26) New! – M-55 is rerouted in downtown Cadillac. The former route, following Harris St from US-131/Mitchell St northeasterly to Division St and Division St easterly to Cass St is turned back to city control, while the portion of Cass St from US-131/Mitchell St northeasterly to Division St is determined as a state trunkline routing. The route of M-55 is now approximately one city block shorter, as eastbound traffic now turns east off Mitchell St one block sooner at Cass instead of at Harris.
  1949 (Nov 10) Updated – A major realignment of US-27 to the west of Houghton and Higgins Lakes removes the concurrent US-27/M-55 designation from M-55 between "The Heights" and Prudenville. Approaching the Houghton Lake area from the east, M-55 now turns southerly to run concurrently with the new US-27 (formerly M-169) for two miles, then easterly via the former US-27 (Calkins Rd-Federal Ave) into the community of Houghton Lake. The former alignment of M-55 through "The Heights" is given the designation of M-169, which until this time had run along the newly rerouted US-27 route from Calkins Rd north to M-55.
  1950 – By 1950, the newly relocated M-169 (formerly the routing of M-55 until 1949) in the area of "The Heights" at Houghton Lake is redesignated as BUS M-55.
  1950 (Nov 3) New! – A new routing for M-55 is officially determined as a state trunkline highway from the area of N 5th Ave-Wilber Rd at the northern limit of the City of Tawas City and continuing southeasterly via Hemlock Rd to a new terminus at US-23 northeast of downtown Tawas City. The former route via Nunn Rd from Hemlock Rd to Bridge St in East Tawas, then southeasterly via Bridge St, easterly via State St, and finally southerly via Newman St to US-23 in downtown East Tawas remains on the state trunkline system for another eight months.
  1951 (July 2) New! – The former route of M-55 at Tawas City and East Tawas bypassed by the new Hemlock St routing determined as a state trunkline highway on November 3, 1950 is oficially turned back to city and county control.
  1958 (Sept 16) New! – M-55 and M-115 are realigned at their northwestern jct on the west side of Cadillac. Until now, M-115 ran via Sunnyside Dr (western portion—not the segment running east of M-115 along the south shore of Lake Cadillac) to South Lake Mitchell Dr, then curved notherly along South Lake Mitchell Dr to its crossing over the channel linking Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell. M-55 followed Sunnyside Dr to South Lake Mitchell Dr, then turned southwesterly via South Lake Mitchell Dr. The new M-115 alignment bypasses the sharp curve on South Lake Mitchell Dr while the new M-55 alignment preserves the 90° junction with M-115. The former routes are turned back to local control except the portion through William Mitchell State Park which is oblitered and becomes part of the swimming beach day-use area.
  1959 – The final several miles of unpaved M-55 are hard-surfaced, in central Iosco Co.
  1960 (May 28, July 22) New! – M-55 is rerouted in Roscommon Co to bypass the community of Houghton Lake Heights on a new alignment between the two intersections of Heightsview Dr and Houghton Lake Dr and opens to traffic on May 28. Additionally, the sharp turn immediately east of the US-27 (now Old 27) jct is bypassed by a more gentle, sweeping curve. Both bypassed segments of M-55 are turned back to county control on July 22.
  1961 (Dec 4) Updated – With the completion of the US-27 freeway, the M-55 routing is restored to its former alignment via BUS M-55 through Houghton Lake Heights, which it replaces. The former route of M-55 along (Old) US-27 and Calkins Rd-Federal Ave is turned back to county control.
  1970 – With the completion of another portion of the M-76 freeway around West Branch, the formerly-concurrent portion of M-55/M-76 through downtown West Branch becomes M-55/BUS M-76.
  1973 – With the final segment complete, the M-76 freeway is designated as the final link of I-75 in Michigan. Between the Maple Valley and West Branch areas, the M-55 routing is transferred onto the newly opened I-75 while the old route becomes an unsigned state trunkline as "OLD M-55." BUS M-76 through West Branch becomes BL I-75.
  1974 (Nov 15) New! – A new, more direct alignment for M-55 along Watergate Rd from the Wexford/Missaukee Co line easterly to Blue Rd approximately ½-mile east of Dickerson Rd is determined as a state trunkline highway. The new alignment, which may have opened to traffic earlier in the year, shaves approximately one mile from the former route along Cadillac Rd (from the county line easterly to Dickerson Rd), Dickerson Rd (Cadillac Rd–Blue Rd), and Blue Rd (Dickerson Rd easterly ½-mile), which remains as an unsigned state trunkline as OLD M-55.
  1980 (Feb 26) New! – The former route of M-55 in southwestern Misaukee Co along Cadillac, Dickerson and Blue Rds which had been bypassed by a newly-constructed alignment in 1974 is turned back to local control. OLD M-55 ceases to exist as an unsigned state trunkline highway.
  2000 (Nov 1) – The first 2.9 miles of the "Cadillac Bypass" opens to traffic and while that freeway would eventually bear the US-131 designation, for the next year, it will only be signed as a rerouted M-55. From the north end of the opened freeway about 1.5 miles east of downtown Cadillac, M-55 now turns southwesterly via the new freeway (joining with US-131 at Exit 177) to M-115 at Exit 176, then runs concurrently with M-115 northwesterly back to the former route of M-55 in the "Lakes Area" on the west side of Cadillac. The former portions of M-55 along E Division St, E Cass St, Granite St and Sunnyside Dr becomes an unsigned state trunkline designated OLD M-55. The formerly concurrent US-131/M-55 via Mitchell St in downtown Cadillac between Granine St and E Cass St remains only US-131.
  2001 (Oct 30) – The remainder of the US-131 "Cadillac Bypass" is opened to traffic on this day from the M-55 EAST interchange (Exit 180) northerly to existing US-131 north of Cadillac. US-131 now officially joins M-55 on the portion of the freeway opened November 1, 2000 between Exits 177 and 180.
  2003 – At Cadillac, the portion of OLD M-55 along Cass and E Division Sts (formerly part of M-55 until 2001) from BUS US-131/Mitchell St easterly to the east city limit at Crosby Rd is turned back to city control. On the other hand, OLD M-55 via Sunnyside Dr from BUS US-131/S Mitchell St westerly to M-115 remains an unsigned state trunkline.
Controlled Access: Two segments of M-50 exist as freeway:
  1. From jct US-131 & M-115 (at Exit 176) south of Cadillac to Exit 180 at jct US-131 & M-55 EAST east of downtown Cadillac. (4.2 miles)
  2. From the inersection with West Branch Rd (Old M-55) east of Prudenville and then concurrently with I-75 between Exit 227 and Exit 215 west of West Branch. (12.3 miles)
  Expressway: No portion of M-55 is constructed as expressway.
NHS: Two segments of M-55 are on the National Highway System (NHS):
  1. From northwestern jct of M-55 & M-115 on the west side of Cadillac to the northern jct of US-131 & M-55 east of downtown Cadillac. (7.3 miles)
  2. Concurrently with I-75 between Exit 227 east of Prudenville and Exit 215 west of West Branch. (11.4 miles)
Photographs:  
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