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M-22 & M-109 junction route signage in Glen Arbor, Michigan
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M-61 Route Marker On to Next Route:
Western Terminus:    M-115 approximately 1 mile west of jct M-66, five miles southwest of Marion
Eastern Terminus:    Downtown Standish at jct US-23 (cnr Cedar St & Main St)
Length: 62.276 miles
Maps: Route Map of M-61
Notes: M-61 remains a relatively low-volume trunkline connecting the county seats of three counties (Standish in Arenac Co, Gladwin in Gladwin Co, and Harrison in Clare Co) with M-115 in Osceola Co. The westernmost extent of the route was formerly at Tustin in northwestern Osceola Co, but the route has been upgraded and scaled back over the decades. For most of the 1930s, M-61 existed as a two-segment, discontinuous route with a gap between Harrison and Gladwin for many years.
  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 a couple changes to M-61 during that timeframe, including:
  • Realigning the route of M-61 heading almost due westerly from Temple in Clare Co to a new terminus at the jct of M-115 & M-66 in Osecola Co, with all of the exisitng route of M-61 northerly from Temple and westerly through Marion to M-115 in north-central Osceola Co turned back to local control. This proposal essentially came to fruition in 1974, although the route for the realignment was a bit farther to the north and the former route wasn't turned back to local control until 1993.
  • Extending M-61 easterly from downtown Standish to a new eastern terminus at a proposed US-23 eastern freeway bypass of the city. While the US-23 freeway extension to Tawas City and Alpena was seriously considered in the 1990s, it has remained unbuilt and, therefore, the extension of M-61 has not yet occurred.
History: 1916 (Sept 30) – The 12.5 miles of state trunkline highway, a portion of which may be designated as T.L. 61, is established as a state trunkline route in Gladwin Co. Starting at the Beaverton/Grout Twp line north of Beaverton, the newly-established trunkline segment continues northerly along present-day M-18 to Gladwin, then easterly along Cedar St through Gladwin, continuing to the east along present-day M-61 to a terminus at T.L. 30 (present-day M-30) in White Star. Sources aren't clear on whether the portion of this trunkline between Gladwin and White Star is desginated as T.L. 61 (with only the portion south of Gladwin as T.L. 18) or if the entire 12.5 miles is all designated as T.L. 18.
  1919 (July 1)IF the trunkline between Gladwin and White Star is designated as T.L. 61, it is now signed in the field as M-61 as all state trunkline highways in Michigan are signed with route markers. (If not, it would be signed as part of M-18.)
  1921 (Jan 11) – The route of M-18 from Gladwin northerly is established as a state trunkline highway, although several State Highway Dept maps show M-18 running north of Gladwin in 1920. (IF the trunkline highway between Gladwin and White Star had been signed as part of M-18 prior to this time, it is now signed as M-61, as M-18 now continues north from Gladwin.)
  1929 (May 24) – A 20.4-mile easterly extension of M-61 is officially established as a state trunkline highway route from M-30 at White Star easterly to US-23 in downtown Standish. The portion of the established route from White Star in Gladwin Co easterly to Standish Rd in Bay Co runs along the same section quarterline as the route from Gladwin to White Star, then at Standish Rd, it turns northeasterly to the intersection of Carter Rd and present-day M-61, then continues due easterly to Standish. As the portion of the established route between M-30 at White Star and Carter Rd in Bay Co has not yet been constructed, M-61 temporarily turns southerly along M-30 at White Star for 3½ miles through Winegars, then easterly via Highwood Rd for 4 miles, northerly for a mile on Fornier Rd, easterly again along Grim Rd to Standish Rd, northerly on Standish through Bentley, easterly via Stevenson Rd, then northerly on Carter Rd to the established route, which it then follows due easterly to Standish. (The bridge spanning the Tittabawassee River ½ mile east of M-30 on the established route was completed in 1928, but M-61 will not be routed over it for two more years.)
  1929 (Dec 8) – A 14.7-mile long route is officially established as a state trunkline highway in Osceola Co along 20 Mile Rd from US-131/Mackinaw Trl just east of Tustin to M-66/Mill St in downtown Marion. It is initially designated as M-143, although at some point in the next several months (likely before any route markers are erected in the field), the designation of this route is changed to be come an eastern extension of M-63, which now continues northerly with US-131 from the existing M-63 routing southwest of LeRoy to Tustin, then easterly to Marion. (Initially, the posted route of M-63 between Tustin and Marion along 20 Mile Rd turns southerly at 140th Ave to run one mile to 19 Mile Rd, then runs easterly along 19 Mile Rd for 6 miles, before turning northerly via 80th Ave for one mile back to 20 Mile Rd, where M-63 continues easterly to Marion. This detour via 140th–19 Mile–80th is only a "marked-and-maintained" routing, not the officially established route.) This establishment is mentioned in the M-61 route listing as it will become part of M-61 in less than two years.
  1931 (Aug 31) – As the highway segment established in 1929 between M-30 at White Star in Gladwin Co and Carter Rd in Bay Co is being constructed, a portion of that established route from about 7 miles east of M-30 easterly to Carter Rd is officially cancelled as a trunkline routing (without having been constructed), while a segment to the north of the same length is established, running along the present-day route of M-61. This segment of highway is likely opened to traffic at this time and is fully surfaced with gravel in 1932. The temporary route east of M-30 via Bentley, which was "marked-and-maintained" but never an officially established route, remains a county road.
  1931 (Aug 31) – A 22.0-mile long state trunkline highway routing is officially established beginning at the eastern terminus of M-63 (as designated in 1929) at M-66/Mill St in downtown Marion in Osceola Co and continuing easterly via 20 Mile Rd, then Long Lake Rd into Clare Co, then southerly via Twin Lakes Ave into Temple, then easterly via Temple Dr and Main St to downtown Harrison at US-27/First St. This new trunkline mileage is initially designated as an easterly extension of the route of M-63, but is quickly changed to become a discontinuous portion of M-61, which also supplants the 1929 extension of M-63 along the Marion-to-Tustin routing as well. (It is not clear if M-63 was ever posted along the Marion-to-Harrison trunkline route.) M-61 now exists as two segments—from Tustin through Marion and Temple to Harrison and from Gladwin to Standish.
  1934 – Improvements and upgrades to the route of 20 Mile Rd between 140th Ave and 80th Ave in north-central Osceola Co allow the route of M-61 to move onto its officially-designated route in that area. The formerly signed route of M-61 (originally signed as M-63) along 140th Ave, 19 Mile Rd and 80th Ave, which was "marked-and-maintained" but never an officially established route, remains under county jurisdiction.
  1935 (July 12) – A 0.7-mile westerly extension of M-61 from US-131/Mackinaw Trl into downtown Tustin is officially established and becomes a state trunkline route.
  1937 (Dec 17, 29) – The State Highway Dept's Highway Advisory Board authorizes a 13.1-mile segment of state trunkline running due westerly from M-18 on the west side of Gladwin to US-27 southeast of Harrison to fill the gap between the two segments of M-61 on December 17. The segment of highway is officially established as a state trunkline on December 29, although as much of the route is not yet constructed, as far as motorists are concerned M-61 remains a two-segment discontinuous route in the field.
  1938 (Jan 6) – The 0.7-mile westerly extension of M-61 from US-131/Mackinaw Trl into downtown Tustin from mid-1935 is cancelled as a state trunkline routing and turned back to local control. The western terminus for M-61 reverts back to its pre-1935 endpoint at US-131.
  1940–1943 – The 13.1-mile segment of M-61 officially established as a state trunkline route in late 1937 between Harrison and Gladwin is substantially constructed and opened to traffic, although some portions of the highway will not be complete until 1943. With the opening of this portion of M-61, it is likely that US-27 between the M-61 junctions at Harrison is now co-signed with M-61 markers as well.
  1950 (Nov 30), 1951 – A minor 2.0 mile long realignment north of Temple in northwestern Clare Co moves M-61 from Pine Rd and Partridge Ave onto Twin Lakes Ave and Long Lake Rd. The 2.0-mile former route is turned back to county jurisdiction. The new routing via Twin Lakes Ave and Long Lake Rd is likely completed and fully opened to traffic in 1951, however, as final paving isn't completed until then.
  1951 – A new bridge spanning the Muskegon River at Temple in western Clare Co is completed and opened to traffic, resulting in a short realignment of the route of M-61 either side of the bridge. The older bridge, constructed in 1900, is removed and the old roadway is left to access the river at this location. It appears the new bridge is connected to a plan to reroute M-61 beginning at Temple and heading westerly into Osceola Co and to a new western terminus at the jct of M-66 & M-115.
  1956 (May 4) – When it was established (as part of M-63) in 1931, the route of M-61 heading westerly from downtown Harrison officially followed Spruce St westerly from US-27/First St (present-day BUS US-127) for four blocks to Fifth St, then turned northwesterly for approximately 0.35 mile along an unconstructed roadway to the point where Main St makes a 90º turn (approximately 0.6 mile west of US-27/First St), then continued along Main St out of Harrison toward Temple. Sources seem to indicate that because of the unconstructed segment between the cnr of Spruce St & Fifth St and the 90º turn in Main St, the actual signed route of M-61 in Harrison continued easterly from that 90º turn along Main St to US-27/First St (as "marked-and-maintained"). On May 4, 1956, the 0.7-mile segment of the official route of M-61 along Spruce St between US-27/First St and Fifth St as well as the never-built segment to the 90º turn on Main St is officially cancelled as a state trunkline highway route. Spruce St is transferred to city control, the unbuilt highway is removed from the books, and Main St from US-27/First St westerly for 0.6 mile is officially transferred to state jurisdiction as a state trunkline highway.
  1958 – The last two short segments of gravel-surfaced M-61 are paved, in eastern Gladwin and northwestern Bay Counties.
  1958 (July 7) – A new bridge spanning Smallwood Lake (an impoundment of the Tittabawassee River) at Wooden Shoe Village and White Star in Gladwin Co is completed just north of the 1928 span and a new 0.5-mile segment of state trunkline is established as a new route for M-61. Of the 0.4-mile long former route, the portion from the east shore of the lake easterly to existing M-61 is turned back to county jurisdiction as Norway St, while the bridge itself is removed and the portion of former M-61 from the west shore to existing M-61 is obliterated as a public roadway. Interestingly, while this new bridge is constructed in 1958, the State Highway Dept had purchased the right-of-way for it in September 1930!
  1959 (Aug 17) – The westernmost 9.8 miles of M-61 along 20 Mile Rd in Osceola Co are turned back to county control when the western terminus of the route is moved easterly to M-115, five miles west of Marion.
  1961 (Dec 4) – The concurrent US-27/M-61 routing for three miles in Harrison becomes BUS US-27/M-61 with the completion of the new US-27 expressway.
  1971 (Sept 29) – Two new state trunkline establishments are made in Clare Co with corresponding abandonments (turning back to local control), specifically:
  • A 3.97-mile realignment of M-61 onto a newly-built route beginning at Westlawn St (0.4 mile west of BUS US-27/First St) in Harrison and running to the south of the former alignment, merging back into the existing route of M-61 approximately ¾ mile west of Old State Ave west of Harrison. The 4.15-mile former route of M-61 is transferred to village and county jurisdiction.
  • A 1.35-mile new alignment for M-61 onto a more gradual, sweeping curve at Temple begins just west of Lake Station Ave, curves to the north and merges back into the existing route of M-61 just east of the Muskegon River bridge. The 1.44-mile former route through the community of Temple is turned back to county control.
  1974 (Nov 15) – A 6.8-mile long new state trunkline route for M-61 is officially assumed into the system beginning at the Muskegon River bridge at Temple in western Clare Co and heading westerly to a terminus at M-115 in Osceola Co, just northwest of the M-66 & M-115 jct. The new alignment shaves approximately 10 miles from the route of M-61. The former route along 20 Mile Rd and Main St (Marion) in Osceola Co and along Long Lake Rd and Twin Lakes Ave in Clare Co is retained as an unsigned state trunkline highway, designated as OLD M-61 internally by the Michigan Dept of State Highways & Transportation, while the short portion of the former M-61 west of Huckleberry Trl near Temple is obliterated as a public roadway.
  1993 (June 30) Updated 2023-10 –The entirety of OLD M-61 (the former route of M-61) in Osceola and Clare Cos—the 13.903 miles from M-115 approximately five miles west of Marion easterly through Marion into Clare Co and then southerly to existing M-61 northwest of Temple—is cancelled as an (unsigned) state trunkline route and transferred to local control, nearly 20 years after the route was superseded by the M-61 realignment westerly from Temple in 1974.
Controlled Access: No portion of M-61 is freeway or expressway.
NHS: No portion of M-61 is on the National Highway System (NHS).
Memorial Highway: The following Memorial Highway designation has been officially assigned to part of M-61 by the Michigan Legislature:
  • Trooper Jeffrey Werda Memorial Highway – "The portion of highway M-61 from the eastern city limit of the city of Gladwin to the intersection of highway M-61 and highway M-30 in Gladwin County..." From MDOT: "Michigan State Police Trooper Jeffrey Werda was killed in a single patrol car accident while responding to a call to assist Saginaw County sheriff’s deputies in a pursuit on April 6, 2011. The 10-year state police veteran graduated from Kearsley High School was married and a father of three."
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