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Southern Terminus:    US-12/Pulaski Hwy & Chicago Rd southwest of Niles (east of US-12 & US-31 interchange)
Northern Terminus:    Nbd: BL I-94/E Main St & Martin Luther King Dr; Sbd: BL I-94/E Main St & Fair Ave, in Benton Harbor
Length 26.520 miles
Maps: Route Map of M-139
Notes: New! 2024-04 Modern-day M-139 is an important secondary state highway route connecting the two major population centers of Berrien County. It begins southwest of Niles and continues into the downtown area before turning north-northwesterly into Berrien Springs. From there it continues northwesterly into the Twin Cities area of Benton Harbor and St Joseph, turning northerly in its final stretch into the east side of Benton Harbor, ending just east of the downtown area of that city. M-139 is intertwined with the route of US-31, both literally and figuratively. Physically, M-139 is never more than 3½ miles away from US-31, beginning to the east of the freeway, crossing over it at Berrien Sprigns, and ending to the west of US-31. On a figurative level, much of modern-day M-139 runs along highways once designated as part of US-31 prior to the coming of the freeway system. Indeed, M-139 was originally conceived as a bypass route for US-31 traffic at Benton Harbor/St Joseph in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
  New! 2024-03 M-139 is an interesting state trunkline route in Berrien Co in the far southwestern corner of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. It has been cobbled together from a variety of other state highway routes over the decades into the 26½ mile long route that it is today. M-139 debuted in 1931 as the beginnings of the US-31 bypass of the Benton Harbor/St Joseph area, although it never truly fulfilled that mission. The debut of the state's freeway system, including Interstate highways in the late-1950s drastically changed M-139's role as a "bypass" route and by 1969, the northern end of the route between downtown Benton Harbor and US-31 north of St Joseph—which had never been constructed on its originally intended path—was removed from the highway system. When the US-31/St Joseph Valley Pkwy freeway pushed northerly into the Twin Cities area in 2003, M-139 was not only restored to its pre-1963 route southerly to Scottdale, but extended along the former route of US-31 to meet the new freeway at Berrien Springs. Less than a decade later, M-139 was extended southerly from Berrien Springs through Niles, superseding three other trunkline routes in the process: OLD US-31, BUS US-31 at Niles, and the western half of Niles' BUS US-12.
  It is ironic that M-139 was originally conceived as an easterly bypass of the Benton Harbor/St Joseph area in the late 1920s, yet for much of its history the route was used as an access into the area from the two subsequent bypasses—I-94 in the 1960s and US-31 in the 2000s. Starting in 2010, however, M-139 took over the former route of US-31/US-33 from Berrien Springs into Niles and replaced the western half of the BUS US-12 designation in Niles, drastically increasing its length and useage. But even with the extensions in the 2000s and 2010s, M-139 still only exists within Berrien County.
  In a city never devoid of state trunkline routing changes, reroutings and alterations, yet another major highway designation took place in March 2010 when MDOT and the City of Niles came to agreement about the four blocks of Main St through the downtown core of the city. Reportedly due to truck traffic using the BUS US-12 route through downtown Niles and the City's inability to curb such useage, the City began talks with MDOT to take over jurisdiction of the short segment of BUS US-12 between the BUS US-31/Front St (now M-139) and M-51/5th St junctions. When viewing a map of the Niles area, it's obvious this is a rather short segment of trunkline transferred to local control, yet it resulted in a gap in an otherwise complete Business Connection through the city. (In modern times MDOT has not allowed there to be route gaps, nor has it allowed for local jurisdiction of state highway routes which is something several other states allow.) Coinciding with the extension of M-139 from Berrien Springs southerly to Niles along the former routes of unsigned OLD US-31 and the orphaned BUS US-31 route, MDOT was able to make sufficient routing changes to accommodate the transfer, although some may remark the resulting arrangement of highway routes into and through the city is somewhat... "awkward."
  Longtime site visitor/contributor Marc Fannin wrote in with an interesting factoid: Along the portion of M-139 from I-94 southerly to Scottdale which was superseded by the US-31 designation for nearly forty years (1963–2003), the physical street name for the addresses for the homes and businesses along that stretch of roadway remained "M-139" even though the route number was US-31 all those years! — Thanks Marc for the info!
  New! 2024-03 In the early-1960s, M-139 was planned to utilize much of the previously-proposed Waukonda-Klock Expressway to replace the connection between BL I-94/Main St east of downtown Benton Harbor and US-33 (formerly US-31, present-day M-63) at the Klock Rd Interchange just north of the Blossomland Bridge. The Waukonda-Klock Expwy was originally conceived of as a downtown Benton Harbor bypass route in the early 1950s, to be constructed once the Blossomland Bridge and its northern approach for US-31 were both completed. US-12 was envisioned to continue northeasterly with US-31 from downtown St Joseph along State St, cross the Blossomland Bridge, then turn easterly along a newly-built expressway route in the Klock Rd and Waukonda St corridors. At Fair Ave, the new expressway would bend southeasterly to merge back into existing US-12/Territorial Rd east of downtown Benton Harbor. However, with the coming of the I-94/US-12 freeway bypass of the Twin Cities in 1961, the State Highway Dept kept the proposed expressway on the books and even purchased a good portion of the right-of-way needed for the project, even demolishing several homes on Waukonda St. The Department envisioned extending M-139 northerly from now-BL I-94 at Main St along Fair Ave, then westerly along the expressway route to a new terminus at US-33 (present-day M-63) north of the Blossomland Bridge. This would have replaced the somewhat winding, two-lane route of M-139 along Paw Paw Ave between downtown Benton Harbor and US-33 to the north. However, the C&O Railway protested State Highway Dept plans to cross their tracks at grade. The Public Service Commission agreed an overpass was the only option, which was upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court. With changing traffic patterns and believing the volumes necessary for constructing an expensive, four-lane railroad overpass were no longer present, the Dept of State Highways decided in 1965 to officially cancel the Waukonda-Klock Expwy project, even after more than 40 parcels of land had been purchased. The acquired right-of-way was mostly sold off between 1966 and 1975 and in 1969, the portion of M-139 along Paw Paw Ave north of downtown Benton Harbor was cancelled as a state trunkline route and turned back to local control. The northern terminus of M-139 has been as BL I-94/E Main St ever since.
  M-139's length from 2003 to 2010 was 11.82 miles prior to being extended to Niles.
History: 1929 (Sept 2) – A new 8.2-mile long state trunkline is established in the Benton Harbor area, generally acting as an easterly bypass of the Benton Harbor-St Joseph area beginning at US-31 at Scottdale and running almost due northerly to a yet-to-be-established shoreline routing of US-31 from St Joseph to Hagar Shores. However, none of the route is yet constructed at this time.
  1930 (Spring) New! 2024-03 – The State Highway Dept completes a replacement for the bridge spanning the St Joseph River along the route of the future M-139 south of Benton Harbor, replacing what is locally known as the "Somerleyton Bridge." This is the first physical step toward the creation of M-139.
  1930 (Nov 1) Updated 2024-04 – Local and state officials cut the ribbon on the new "Somerleyton Bridge" and its approaches, officially opening the 3.221-mile section of M-139 from US-31 at Scottdale northerly across the St Joseph River bridge and northerly to Napier Ave. The portion of the new highway from Nickerson Rd to Napier Ave is constructed atop the former grade of a Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St Louis (Big Four) Railway spur, which had been previously abandoned. The established route for M-139 from Napier Ave northerly has not yet been constructed, so M-139 is routed westerly along Napier Ave, then northerly on Ogden St, westerly again via Empire Ave, northerly along Broadway before turning northwesterly on Pipestone St to a terminus at US-12/US-31/Main St in downtown Benton Harbor. The Napier–Ogden–Empire–Broadway–Pipestone route is a "marked-and-maintained" route as it doesn't follow the officially established route from the previous December.
  1933 (Fall) Updated 2024-04 – An additional 0.84-mile segment of M-139 is completed and opened to traffic during the fall, extending the roadway from Napier Ave northerly to Pipestone Rd. M-139 traffic now continues northerly from Nickerson Rd to Pipestone Rd, then northwesterly along Pipestone to US-12/US-31/W Main St downtown Benton Harbor. As with the previous in-town routing, the Pipestone St portion of the route of M-139 is only a "marked-and-maintained" routing, with the officially established alignment running northerly from Pipestone. The northerly extension of M-139 gets underway later in the year.
  1935 – A slight realignment to the marked-and-maintained-only route of M-139 in downtown Benton Harbor removes M-139 from Pipestone between Wall & Main Sts. Traffic is now directed easterly via Wall St and northerly via Market St to US-12/US-31/Main St.
  1936 (Sept 4) Updated 2024-04 – Construction is completed on M-139 viaduct spanning the Ox Creek valley and the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St Louis (Big Four) Railway line which runs alongside the creek and the entire segment of roadway from Pipestone Rd northerly 0.7 mile to where the newly-constructed route merges into Fair Ave approximately ½ mile north of the viaduct is opened to traffic. The route of M-139 now continues from Pipestone Rd across the newly-completed viaduct, then northerly along Fair Ave to a new termimus at US-12/E Main St. The former route via Pipestone St, Wall St & Market St was never officially established as a trunkline and, therefore, remains a city street. A dedication ceremony with State Highway Commissioner Murray D. Van Wagoner as the chief speaker was to be held a five weeks later on October 9, but heavy rains and Van Wagoner on a delayed train at Kalamazoo wreak havoc on the event.
  1953 (Dec 24) New! 2023-11 – The new 1.8-mile long segment of highway from the northern end of the Blossomland Bridge at St Joseph is opened to traffic (via present-day M-63). The route of US-31 is adjusted to run northeasterly from downtown St Joseph via State St, cross the bascule bridge spanning the St Joseph River then continue via the newly-completed roadway to the existing route of US-31 at Paw Paw Ave. Taking the place of the US-31 designation along Paw Paw Ave from US-12/Main St in downtown Benton Harbor northerly to the shoreline route of US-31 is redesignated as a northerly extension of M-139—the original route designation assigned to that segment in 1929. US-12/E Main St between Paw Paw Ave and M-139/Fair Ave becomes concurrently signed with M-139 to connect the two segments. It is important to note that the portion of M-139 via Paw Paw Ave between Riverside Dr and downtown Benton Harbor runs via a marked-and-maintained-only route, meaning this portion of Paw Paw is not an officially established state trunkline route. Rather the State Highway Dept still hopes to construct M-139 on a direct alignment between the north end of Fair Ave and Paw Paw Ave at Riverside Dr.
  1961 (Jan 6) – In conjunction with the completion of the I-94/US-12 freeway bypass of Benton Harbor and St Joseph, M-139 immediately south of the new freeway to the St Joseph River bridge is realigned and the former route, via Old M-139, is turned back to local control.
  1963 (Aug 30) Updated 2024-04 – A 22½-mile long segment of I-96/US-31 freeway opens from I-94 northeast of Benton Harbor to just north of South Haven. US-31 is routed beginning at Scottdale south of Benton Harbor to run northerly with M-139 from exisitng US-31/US-33 to I-94, then northeasterly with I-94 to the beginning of I-96 (present-day I-196), then northerly from there to South Haven.
  1964–65 – At some point in late-1964 or early-1965, M-139 is truncated at the I-94 & US-31 interchange south of Benton Harbor. The formerly-concurrent US-31/M-139 from there southerly to Scottdale becomes just US-31.
  1965 (Sept 24) New! 2024-04 – The recently-renamed Michigan Dept of State Highways officially cancels the long-proposed Waukonda-Klock Expwy project bypassing downtown Benton Harbor to the north, which has been envisioned as a new route for M-139, removing it from the Paw Paw Ave alignment. (See the detailed note in the Notes section above regarding the history of the Waukonda-Klock Expwy.) M-139 remains on its existing route into downtown Benton Harbor, then northerly via Paw Paw Ave to US-33 north of the city.
  1969 (Feb 26, Aug 26) Updated 2024-04 – The Dept of State Highways announced its decision to cancel the route of M-139 from BL I-94/Main St in downtown Benton Harbor northerly to US-33 (present-day M-63) and turn it back to local control. Interestingly, a significant portion of the officially established route for M-139 north of BL I-94/Main St was never constructed and only exists on paper. Only the portion of Paw Paw Ave from Riverside Rd northerly to US-33 is on the officially-established route from December 1929. From Riverside Rd southwesterly via Paw Paw Ave into downtown Benton Harbor has been a "marked-and-maintained" trunkline route—meaning the Dept of State Highways has signed the roadway as part of M-139 and has maintained it as if it were a trunkline, but it was never officially established as the route—since 1929. From 1931–1953, Paw Paw Ave from downtown Benton Harbor northerly was actually signed as part of US-31, and then as the northernmost part of M-139 since then. On February 26, the Dept of State Highways cancels its maintenance agreement for the portion of Paw Paw Ave south of Riverside Dr into downtown Benton Harbor. Then exactly six months later on August 26, it cancels the 2.824-mile long officially-established route for M-139 north of BL I-94/E Main St—which is unconstructed from Main St due northerly to Riverside Dr—to US-33 and turns the route back to local control. M-139's northern terminus is now at BL I-94/E Main St.
  1973 (Aug 22, Sept 14) Updated 2024-04 – A new northbound routing for M-139 on the eastern edge of Benton Harbor is completed and opened to traffic on August 22 after being under construction for a year. The $1 million northbound "bypass," as it is referred to locally, splits off existing M-139 approximately 0.2 mile (800 ft) north of Empire Ave, bends northeasterly crossing Britain Ave and Hall St before bending slightly back to the northwest before merging into the existing Pine St just south of BL I-94/E Main St, where nbd M-139 terminates. Existing M-139 along Fair Ave from BL I-94/E Main St southerly to the new northbound split is reconfigured to carry southbound traffic only. The new 0.993-mile northbound roadway, which is named Martin Luther King Jr Dr by local authorities, is officially established as a state trunkline route about three weeks later on September 14.
  2003 (Aug 27) – A 9.1-mile extension of the US-31 freeway in Berrien Co is opened to traffic, connecting the northern end of the existing freeway at Berrien Springs with Napier Ave east of Benton Harbor. This is the fourth of five informal "phases" of the freeway in Berrien Co and it removes through traffic off the rather dangerous former route of US-31 between Berrien Springs and I-94. The former route of US-31 between the freeway at Berrien Springs (at Exit 15) and I-94 south of Benton Harbor/St Joseph is redesignated as an extension of M-139, instead of an extension of M-63 as had been originally proposed and confirmed by several MDOT documents.
  2010 (Mar 10) – While the extension of M-139 from its southern terminus at the US-31 freeway at Berrien Springs to downtown Niles was already being planned, a new development in downtown Niles resulted in the transfer of four blocks of the BUS US-12 route beginning at the BUS US-31 (soon-to-be M-139) to city control. As MDOT would not allow for a gap in the existing route of BUS US-12, the M-139 designation is now further extended southwesterly from downtown Niles, supplanting the western half of the former BUS US-12 route. M-139 now terminates at US-12 southwest of Niles.
Controlled Access: No portion of M-139 is freeway or expressway.
NHS: The entire length of M-139 is part of the National Highway System (NHS).
Memorial Highway: At present, no portion of M-139 has been designated as part of a Memorial Highway.
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