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M-22 & M-109 junction route signage in Glen Arbor, Michigan
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Former M-118
M-119 Route Marker On to Next Route:
Southern Terminus:    US-31 east of Bay View, approximately 4 miles east of downtown Petoskey
Northern Terminus:    Downtown Cross Village at jct C-66/C-77 (cnr N Lakeshore Dr & N State Rd)
Length: 27.549 miles
Maps: Route Map of M-119
Notes: The 19.4-mile portion of M-119 between Harbor Springs and Cross Village is known as the "Tunnel of Trees," a scenic drive paralleling the Lake Michigan shoreline. Unlike other state-maintained highways, M-119 through this stretch has no shoulders and in most places, is not marked with center dividing lines as the pavement is not a full two lanes wide in many areas. The trip along this portion of M-119 features two sharp hairpin turns ("Devil's Elbow" and "Horseshoe Bend"), as well as trees and brush growing right up to the edge of the pavement. Needless to say, the route is popular with tourists (locals tend to opt for C-77 instead), who can slow travel on the highway in season to a crawl. In that sense, drivers are warned to use caution, being aware of slow drivers. The road in winter can become all but impassible with Lake Effect snowfalls and few snowplow trips...
  M-119, including the "Tunnel of Trees" portion was officially designate a Scenic Heritage Route in June 2003.
  Prior to being designated M-119 in October 1979, the trunkline spur from US-31 east of Bay View in Emmet Co northerly and westerly to Harbor Springs since 1927 (and continuing further from Harbor Springs via Good Hart to Cross Village from 1933–1937 and 1945–onward) was designated M-131 as a "logical extension" of the route of US-131. From 1927 until 1939, US-131 terminated "in the middle of nowhere" between Walton Junction and Fife Lake in southeastern Grand Traverse Co, with M-131 continuing northerly through Kalkaska, Mancelona, and Boyne Falls to Petoskey. Beginning in 1933, M-131 continued concurrently with US-31 through Bay View and then around Little Traverse Bay to Harbor Springs to Cross Village. (Between 1937 and 1945, M-131 was scaled back to end at Harbor Springs, but was re-extended to Cross Village again after World War II.) In 1939, the lion's share of M-131 from near Fife Lake to Petoskey was designated as a northerly extension of US-131, leaving M-131 to only run from Petoskey northerly. Finally in late 1979, to reduce motorist confusion between to extremely similarly-numbered routes, M-131 was renumbered M-119 in its entirety.
  In April 1946, State Highway Commissioner Charles M. Ziegler, when specifically asked by Petoskey area journalists, stated there were no plans to continue the M-131 state trunkline (which M-119 was then designated) from its terminus at Cross Village northeasterly through Wilderness State Park to Mackinaw City, "to complete a scenic circuit" along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Ziegler stated such a project would be "many years in the future as the route has not been accepted as a trunk line and must be so designated by the legislature and administrative board before the highway department can act." Ziegler did note, "there was opposition to putting a 'high-speed' highway through the area and destroying it's 'wilderness' character." No known serious efforts have ever been put forth to "complete" a state highway routing in northwestern Emmet Co through Wilderness State Park.
  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 the following change to the route of M-119, which ran from Paw Paw in Van Buren Co southerly to US-112 in southeast Cass Co, during that timeframe:
  • Truncating M-119 to an upgraded (uncontrolled-access) divided highway) M-60 alignment roughly at the existing M-119 & M-60 intersection near Jones in eastern Cass Co. The rest of M-119 south of M-60 to US-112 was to have been turned back to local control. This proposal never came to fruition and M-40—the replacement designation for M-119 in this are, stil runs to US-12—the replacement designation for US-112—to this day.
History: 1928 (Jun 28) – A new 4.0-mile state trunkline is designated from US-12 in downtown Paw Paw and continuing southerly to a terminus in downtown Lawton and is designated as M-119. M-119 basically serves as a spur trunkline route to connect Lawton to the rest of the trunkline network.
  1929 (Aug 29) – A slight realignment "cuts the corner" just north of Lawton saving 4/10 mile from the former route via 62nd Ave and 31st St, which is turned back to local control.
  1931 (June 19) – The State Administrative Board approves a 10.6-mile extension of M-119 from downtown Lawton southerly to the west limit of Marcellus in Cass Co as the single largest addition to the state highway system out of a total of 30 additional miles of roadway approved to be added to the trunkline sytem.
  1931 (July 22) – The 10.6-mile extension of M-119 from downtown Lawton southerly to Marcellus approved by the State Administrative Board a month earlier is officially established as a state trunkline highway route.
  1933 (July 12) – An additional 10.3 miles of state trunkline are added from Marcellus southerly to M-60 near Jones as a southerly extension of M-119.
  1935 (Jan 7) – Yet another southerly extension, this time 6.4 miles in length, takes M-119 south from M-60 at Jones to meet US-112 two miles west of Mottville.
  1938 (Dec 6) – A slight realignment on the southern limits of Lawton "smooths out" a pair of sharp turns, the former route being turned back to local control. A similar, albeit slightly longer, realignment shaves 0.7 mile from the route of M-119 in southeastern Van Buren Co at Cedar Lake. The former route via 31st St, 93rd Avd and 94th Ave, is turned back to local control.
  1949 (Nov 7) – A slight realignment "cuts the corner" along the Marcellus/Newberg Twp line south of Marcellus, shaving 0.8 mile from the route of M-119. The former route via Old 119 and Dutch Settlement Rd is turned back to local control on this date while the new route is both officially certified as a state trunkline highway route and opened to traffic as well.
  1949 (Nov 10) – M-119 is shortened by a few hundred yards when US-112 at the southern end of M-119 is realigned slightly north of its former alignment.
  1954 (May 18, Jul 9) – On May 19, a new M-119 easterly bypass of the community of Jones in east-central Cass Co is completed and opened to traffic, while the new route is officially established as as state trunkline route on July 9 and the former route—Main St through Jones and Old 119 to the norht—is turned back to local control that same day.
  1956 (Feb–Mar) – In February, the Paw Paw village council requests the State Highway Dept consider moving its proposed US-12 freeway interchange for Paw Paw from existing M-119 along LaGrave St south of the village westerly to Kalamazoo St to avoid existing development. The MSHD route location engineer agrees in March and plans for the Paw Paw interchange for US-12 Relocated are moved to Kalamazoo St.
  1959 (Dec 7) – A 15.8-mile long segment of the new I-94/US-12 freeway is completed and opened to traffic from a new M-119 interchange south of Paw Paw easterly to US-131/Westnedge Ave south of Kalamazoo, part of a 45-mile stretch of completed freeway from Paw Paw to Battle Creek. With the freeway temporarily ending at M-119/S Kalamazoo St, US-12 through traffic is temporarily routed northerly via M-119 along its new S Kalamazoo St alignment into downtown Paw Paw where it meets its former route, then continues west toward Lawrence and Hartford. (This segment of Kalamazoo St will become part of M-40 when the I-94/US-12 freeway is completed west of Paw Paw in the future.) The former route of M-119 into Paw Paw from the south via S LaGrave St is severed at the new freeway and the M-119 route is removed from it.
  1960 (Feb 10) – The former route of M-119 along S LaGrave St from E Michigan Ave in Paw Paw (former US-12) southerly and southeasterly to the recently-completed I-94/US-12 freeway, then from the other side of the freeway southesterly to the newly built M-119 route (approximately halfway between Co Rd 665 and Co Rd 653/Almena Dr) is officially transferred to village and county control, while the new route of M-119 connecting into S Kalamazoo Ave and leading into downtown Paw Paw (and temporarily bearing the US-12 route between the I-94 freeway and Michigan Ave downtown) is officially established as a state trunkline route, just over two months after it opens to traffic.
  1960 (Aug 15) – With the completion and opening of the 14½-mile segment of the I-94/US-12 freeway segment from M-119 at Paw Paw westerly to Hartford in central Van Buren Co, additional state trunkline route changes come to the Paw Paw area, including M-119. The US-12 designation between Paw Paw and Hartford is transferred to the new freeway alignment, as is the M-40 route. From where it meets the freeway west of Paw Paw, M-40 now joins I-94 and US-12 and runs easterly concurrently to the M-119 interchange (present-day Exit 60) south of Paw Paw, and now runs northerly along S Kalamazoo Ave, replacing the relocated M-119 and temporary US-12 designations into downtown Paw Paw, where it meets its former routing at Michigan Ave. The net effect on the route of M-119 is to shorten it by ¾ mile to a new northern terminus at the I-94/US-12 interchange.
  1968 (Nov 29) – A short realignment two miles south of downtown Lawton shaves 0.02 mile from M-119.
  1971 (Sept 11) – The State Highway Dept announces a change in highway route designations involving M-40 and M-119 in Van Buren, Cass and Berrien Cos to go into effect later in the fall. From Paw Paw, M-119 will be supplanted in its entirety by a rerouted M-40, which will now continue south from Paw Paw through Lawton and Marcellus, terminating at US-12 west of Mottville. The former route of M-40 between I-94 west of Paw Paw southerly through Decatur and Dowagiac to Niles will be redesignated as M-51. The concurrent I-94/M-40 segment between Exits 56 and 60 becomes just I-94. Reasons given for the change by MSHD officials include motorist confusion with having M-40 routed along I-94 for four miles and the M-119 route from Paw Paw southerly being a much more logical routing for M-40 to follow.
  1971 (Sept 8, Nov) – Following completion of a widening project along M-40 in downtown Dowagiac in November, the route designation changes for M-40 and M-119 announced on September 8 take effect. All M-119 route markers are changed out for M-40 signs, while all M-40 signs between I-94 at Exit 56 and downtown Niles are swapped out for new M-51 markers, signalling the debut of M-51 along that segment. The M-119 route designation is retired at this point and the overall length of M-40, now running southerly from Paw Paw to US-12 west of Mottville, is shortened by 9½ miles.
  1979 (Oct 5) – The entirety of M-131 is redesignated as M-119 to reduce confusion with the two other nearby highways with "31" in their designations: US-31 and US-131. M-131-turned-M-119 begins at "Chimney Corners" at US-31 east of Bay View and continues via Harbor Springs and Good Hart to a terminus at jct C-66/C-77 in Cross Village. Eighty M-131 route markers are swapped out for new M-119 signs. One internal MDOT source, however, indicates M-119 (and M-131 before it) as beginning at jct US-31 & US-131 (cnr Charlevoix Ave & Spring St) on the west side of Petoskey and continuing easterly via US-31 through Bay View to the present-day beginning of M-119 before turning northerly toward Harbor Springs. As the Dept of State Highways had removed the M-131 route markers from US-31 through Petoskey and Bay View a decade prior, it is unclear if the department still considers M-131-turned-M-119 to officially still begin at the northern terminus of US-131 or if it was simply a mapping error.
  1990 (Summer, December) – Preservation discussions along the M-119 "Tunnel of Trees" corridor begin during the summer, then MDOT contracts with the Little Traverse Conservancy to conduct a scenic inventory of the route in December.
  1999 (October)MDOT contracts with the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NWMCOG—now referred to as Networks Northwest) to develop the Corridor Management Plan for M-119 as a Scenic Heritage Route.
  2003 (June 28) – The 19.4 miles of M-119 from the western city limit of Harbor Springs near the Harbor Point Golf Club northerly to the northern terminus of M-119 in Cross Village are officially dedicated as a Scenic Heritage Route at the Cross Village Township Hall. The goals of designating the "Tunnel of Trees" as a Scenic Heritage Route are
  • To promote protection and preservation of the current state of the Corridor.
  • To assess existing community plans and regulations to ensure effective implementation of the goals and projects listed in the Management Plan.
  • To promote enhancement projects restoring character and encouraging the use of alternative routes.
  • To unite the linear community through the planning process.
Controlled Access: No portion of M-119 exists as freeway or expressway.
NHS: No portion of M-119 is on the National Highway System (NHS).
Pure Michigan
Scenic Heritage Route MarkerM-119 Tunnel of Trees Heritage Route – Officially dedicated as a Scenic Heritage Route in June 2003. This is the famous "Tunnel of Trees" route connecting Harbor Springs with Cross Village in Emmet Co.
Memorial Highway: At present, no portion of M-119 has been designated as part of a Memorial Highway.
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