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M-22 & M-109 junction route signage in Glen Arbor, Michigan
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M-44 Route Marker On to Next Route:
Western Terminus1:   Updated Jct I-96 & M-37 at the East Beltline Ave interchange with I-96 (at Exit 38) at Grand Rapids (signed—see note below)
Western Terminus2:   New! Jct M-11 & M-37 (cnr 28th St & East Beltline Ave/Broadmoor Ave) in Kentwood (see note below)
Eastern Terminus:     M-66 at Woods Corners, 6 miles north of Ionia (cnr Belding Rd & State Rd) in northern Ionia Co
Length1: New! 33.249 miles (signed length—see note below)
Length2: Updated 37.464 miles (see note below)
Maps: New! Route Map of M-44
Notes: New! The westernmost portion of the route of M-44 has been rather... "elastic" or "in flux" over the past few decades. As such, the western terminus as described here shows both the currently signed end of the route at I-96 Exit 38 on the eastern edge of Grand Rapids as well as the possible official terminus of the route at jct M-11 & M-37 at the cnr of 28th St & East Beltline Ave/Broadmoor Ave in Kentwood. The reason for this is that the 4.13-mile segment of East Beltline Ave between I-96 and M-11/28th St was signed as M-37/M-44 from 1961–1977, as M-37 only from 1977–2003, as M-37/M-44 once again from 2003–2016, and again as just M-37 from 2016 to present. The reason for this truncation/re-extension/re-truncation over the years is not clear, although some theories persist. Until official determination of the western terminus of M-44, whether it be at jct I-96 & M-37 at Exit 38—the signed terminus as of 2016 and "Terminus1/Length1" above—or at jct M-37 & M-11/28th St in Kentwood ("Terminus2/Length2" above) resulting in an unsigned segment of M-44 from I-96 to M-11/28th St, is made from official MDOT sources, the two possible western termini of M-44 will continue to be listed here.
  M-44 in the Grand Rapids area today occupies a portion of what was originally intended to be one of four legs in a complete Grand Rapids "Beltline" highway system, designated M-114. The southern and western legs of the beltline were designated along existing roads, today's 28th St and Wilson Ave, respectively. The eastern leg was built and called, obviously, East Beltline—a name which it retains today. The northern leg, which was to run, in part, via 3 Mile Rd, was never completed. Originally designated M-114, the eastern portion of the Beltline was once designated BYPASS US-131; then as the former routes though Grand Rapids became Business Connections, US-131 itself ran along the route. With the completion of the US-131 freeway through downtown Grand Rapids in the early-1960s, the portion of US-131 along East Beltline was redesignated as an extension of M-44.
  With the completion of a segment of US-131 freeway north of Grand Rapids in 1969, the former US-131/M-44 from M-44/Belding Rd south of Rockford to Plainfield Ave northeast of Grand Rapids became just M-44. Old US-131/Plainfield Ave south to I-96 at Exit 33 became CONNECTOR M-44.
  While physically running north-south along East Beltline Ave and Northland Dr from its western terminus to the Rockford area, M-44 is an east-west trending highway, and is signed as such. This has created a minor amount of confusion for some, though, since the road is named East Beltline, and the route is signed east-west; many assume the road runs east-west as well.
  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 one change to the route of M-44 during that timeframe. They suggested converting the existing alignment of M-44 to a divided highway from the junction with US-131 (at present day Wolverine Blvd & Belding Rd) southeast of Rockford easterly to the western limits of the City of Belding. Similarly, the portion of M-44 from the eastern limits of the City of Belding to its eastern terminus at M-66 at Woods Corners was also proposed to be converted to a divided highway. Neither of these proposals were ever implemented.
History: 1920 (Dec 21) Originally M-44 ran via a portion of its present-day routing, beginning at M-13 (later US-131) just south of Rockford, heading easterly through Belding. Near Orleans, M-44 turns south to follow Orleans, Meade and Haynor Rds, ending at M-21 in Ionia.
  c.1930 M-44 is realigned to run due easterly from the Orleans area via Belding Rd to end at M-14 (present-day M-66) at Woods Corners.
  1939 The final few miles of gravel-surfaced M-44 are paved, from the Kent/Ionia Co line to Belding.
  1961 M-44 is extended southerly from its western terminus concurrently with US-131 along East Beltline Ave to end at jct US-131/M-11/M-21/M-37/M-44 (East Beltline Ave & 28th St) southeast of Grand Rapids.
  1962 US-131 is transferred off East Beltline Ave onto Plainfield Ave (formerly BUS US-131). M-44 continues southerly to M-21 at Fulton St, then concurrently with M-21 to M-11/28th St.
  1964 The concurrent M-21 designation between Fulton St and 28th St is removed when M-21 is rerouted along I-196 through Grand Rapids.
  1969 (Oct 29) With the completion of a segment of US-131 freeway north of Grand Rapids, the former US-131/M-44 routing between M-44 south of Rockford and Plainfield Ave northeast of Grand Rapids becomes solely M-44. Old US-131/Plainfield Ave south to I-96 Exit 33 becomes CONNECTOR M-44.
  Also in 1969, M-37 is re-routed at Grand Rapids: From M-11/28th St and M-44/East Beltline Ave in Kentwood, M-37 is run concurrently with M-44 up East Beltline Ave to I-96 (at Exit 38), then northwesterly via I-96 to M-37/Alpine Ave (at Exit 30). M-44 is maintained south to M-11/28th St.
  1977 After eight years, the concurrent M-37/M-44 designation is removed when M-44 is scaled back to end at I-96 Exit 38 east of Grand Rapids. Four M-44 route markers still graced junction assemblies at jct M-11/28th St & M-37/East Beltline Ave through the 1990s, however.
  1991 M-44 along East Beltline Ave undergoes a major reconstruction widening the formerly two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway with Michigan Lefts from I-96 northerly to CONN M-44/Plainfield Ave in Grand Rapids & Plainfield Townships. One source notes that money for this project came from the cancellation of the long-proposed "M-37 connector" between US-131 north of Grand Rapids and Alpine Ave southeast of Sparta.
  2003 (Aug) In late-August, as a part of a complete sign rehabilitation along East Beltline Ave in Grand Rapids, the route of M-44 is "re-extended" south from its terminus at I-96 (Exit 38), concurrently with M-37 to end at M-11/28th St, where M-37 continues southerly toward Hastings and Battle Creek. MDOT had seemingly removed this redundant concurrency in 1977, but inexplicably re-adds it in 2003.
  2016 (May–June) New! In a reversal of the August 2003 "re-extension" of M-44 from I-96 at Exit 38 on the eastern edge of Grand Rapids southerly to M-11/28th St as well as being a "re-truncation" reenacting MDOT's original removal of the M-44 designation from that portion of East Beltline Ave, the M-44 route markers are again removed from all of M-37/East Beltline Ave south of I-96. M-44's western terminus is, once again, I-96 at Exit 38. Much like the 2003 "re-extension" of M-44, this "re-truncation" comes as part of a road sign rehabilitation job along the East Beltline corridor.
Controlled Access: Freeway: None of M-44 is limited-access freeway.
  Expressway: The portion of M-44 along Wolverine Blvd from a point halfway between the Brewer Ave and Northland Dr intersections in northeastern Plainfield Twp to the intersection of Wolverine Blvd & Belding Rd southeast of Rockford is controlled-access. (1.1 miles)
NHS: M-44 from its western terminus at jct I-96 & M-37 at Grand Rapids to the intersection of Wolverine Blvd & Belding Rd southeast of Rockford is on the National Highway System (NHS). (8.74 miles) (The segment of M-44 from I-96 at Exit 38 to the intersection of Wolverine Blvd & Belding Rd was added to the NHS in 2012 with the passage of the MAP-21 funding and authorization bill.)
Business Connection: CONN M-44 Grand Rapids. Along Plainfield Ave from I-96/M-37 at Exit 33 in Grand Rapids to M-44 northeast of Grand Rapids (cnr Plainfield Ave & East Beltline Ave-Northland Dr).
Memorial Highways:  New! The following Memorial Highway designations have been officially assigned to parts of M-44 by the Michigan Legislature:
  • Michigan State Trooper Timothy O'Neill Memorial Highway – "The portion of highway M-44 in Kent County beginning at the intersection of highway M-44 and Rogue River Road and extending northeast to the intersection of highway M-44 and Belding Road..." From the Michigan Legislature: "Trooper Timothy J. O'Neill joined the Michigan State Police in 2014, after graduating as a member of the 126th Trooper Recruit School. Trooper O'Neill served at the Rockford Post and became a member of the Motor Unit in May 2017. On September 20, 2017, while riding his Department motorcycle in Plainfield Township, he was involved in a crash and suffered fatal injuries."
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