National Firsts

Michigan has been a national leader in transportation innnovation since the beginning of the 20th century.

  1. Nation's first mile of concrete highway built by the Wayne County Road Commission (Woodward Avenue between 6 and 7 Mile roads in Detroit)   1909.
  2. Nation's first painted centerline (River Road near Trenton, by the Wayne County Road Commission)   1911. (The first state trunkline in the nation to sport a centerline was the Marquette to Negaunee Road - now US 41/M 28 - in 1917.)
  3. Nation's first highway materials testing lab (at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)   1912.
  4. Nation's first four-way red/yellow/green electric traffic light (corner of Woodward and Michigan avenues in Detroit). The light was the invention of Detroit Police Officer William Potts)   1918.
  5. Nation's first roadside park (on US 2 Iron County)   1919.
  6. In 1912 William Bachman, Sr., of Detroit began marking roadside telephone poles in different colors to designate different highway routes.Nation's first road marking system was created by William Bachman of the Detroit AAA. It utilized colored bands and numbers on telephone poles alongside the roadways. (By 1920, he had banded 2,000 miles of Michigan's roadside utility poles.)
  7. Nation's first practical highway snowplow was built in Munising, Mich.   1922.
  8. Nation's first "super highway" (Woodward Avenue between Detroit and Pontiac) was an eight-lane divided highway with a 40-foot median   1923.
  9. Nation's first state highway department to use aerial surveys for highways designs   1925.
  10. Nation's first state highway department to correlate soil characteristics with highway design and construction   1925.
  11. Nation's first highway department to use yellow centerlines to designate "no passing" zones  1927.
  12. Nation's first criss cross and paved runways (Ford Airport, Dearborn)  1929.
  13. Nation's first roadside picnic tables (along US 16 in Ionia)  1929.
  14. Nation's first state operated information center (now called welcome centers) was opened in 1935 near New Buffalo, Mich. (Today, there are 14 welcome centers at border points or near popular visitor locations.)
  15. Nation's first state to complete a border-to-border interstate - I-94 running 205 miles from Detroit to New Buffalo   1960.
  16. Nation's first depressed urban expressway (Davison Freeway now M-8 in Highland Park)   1942.
  17. Nation's first bicycle path to be constructed alongside an interstate freeway. (The 37-mile-long I 275 path)   1977.
  18. The first automobile transcontinental time record was set by David B. Huss (Detroit) in a Michigan-built Oldsmobile   1905 (The demonstration trip from New York City to Portland, Ore. took 44 days.)