Livingston County is along three major crossroads in Southeast Lower Michigan. (For those not acquainted with the Mitten-shaped state, we here do tend to use ‘lower’ Michigan to differentiate from the Upper Peninsula.)
Don’t mind my map. I “borrowed” it from the Livingston County webpage and made some alterations and labels and stuff.
I-96 runs from diagonal across the county. To the west it heads to state capital, Lansing. To the east, it goes to Detroit. Mostly, I-96 is three lanes. I don’t like when my travels along I-96 take me beyond M-59 or US-23. Between those points, 96 is a pretty decent drive. You won’t usually get run off the road or find your little car ready to be mounted by some massive and over-eager vehicle coming up from behind.
I-96 has several distinctions. It is the only two digit InTRAstate interstate. It only exists in Michigan. I-96 from Brighton to Farmington was part of the first “freewayization” and was built in 1957. This stretch was one of the first limited access freeways in the area, when such things were new and fangled. (source: http://www.michiganhighways.org/. )
(Picture: I-96 opens in 1962. Photo “borrowed” from Howell Bicentennial while it was checked out of the library. Hey, I’m totally not old enough to have been there!)
Before I-96, Grand River was the major East-West route between Lansing and Detroit. Once the limited access highways went in, Grand River became just the major local road. It runs through the centers of Brighton, Howell, and Fowlerville. Grand River has it’s own neat history, but that’s for another post.
US-23 runs North-South through the east side of the county. This major thoroughfare is a mere two lanes. To the south, it goes to Ann Arbor. Last I heard, US-23 south between Brighton and Ann Arbor was “at capacity” during rush hour. Which apparently means traffic slows to a twenty mile per hour crawl… on the good days. To the north, US-23 eventually goes to Flint. 23 North is a better drive, I think because it’s a longer drive to get anywhere so folks just settle in for the trip.
Running parallel to US-23 is “Old 23”. Occasionally, there are signs marking this as “Whitmore Lake Road”, but it’s really just Old 23. This was pretty much the route of US-23 before US-23 was shifted and turned into a limited access freeway. The surface road remains (mostly) and is called “Old 23.” I think the signs actually say “Old US-23.”
Next is M-59. Through most of the county M-59 is a 2 to 5 lane road. As it leaves Livingston County, it becomes a divided highway. Somewhere later, it becomes an expressway (or limited access highway). And I think it ultimately leads to Detroit. I swear, all E/W expressways in this part of the state lead to Detroit. I think it has something to do with the Metro Detroit area having a huge portion of the population or some such silly reason… 😉 M-59 is also labeled as Highland Road. Which, gets confusing, especially at certain intersections, like the one at M-59/ Highland Road and Michigan Ave by Howell. As far as I can tell, at M-59, Michigan Ave changes names to become Oak Grove Road. So the road sign at the corner has four road names for two roads!
Oh, yeah, almost forgot M-36. This little mostly 2-lane road meanders across the southern part of the county. It sees a fair amount of traffic since it’s one the primary routes to take folks from Pinckney and Hamburg out to US-23, which they then take to 96, 94, or other routes to their work destinations.
A last route I’ll mention is D-19. It’s not on the map above, but if your drew a more-or-less straight line south from Howell to Pinckney, that would be D-19. It’s another winding 2-lane road. In Pinckney, travelers can pick up Dexter-Pinckney Road and travel onwards to Ann Arbor, but since these are winding, two-lane roads, they are not the primary choices. Talk has been had over the years of making a major North-South thoroughfare through the western side of the county to help develop it. I think that part of the county is just fine the way it is.
Aside from these major roads, there are, of course, plenty of ways to get around. Many of the roadways in Livingston County are dirt… or, do to lack of proper maintenance in these, ah, lean times, some of the paved roads are reverting to dirt. It’s like when you place SimCity, but don’t fund the transportation department well enough, your roads disintegrate into rubble. Many times paving of dirt roads is voted down because the residents want to maintain a “country” feel. But they sure do want to get excited about the CVS going up on the corner next to the Walgreens in front of Wal-Mart and Meijer… as a lifetime local-yokel, I would rather drive ten minutes– or even twenty minutes!– to get to a grocery store or pharmacy than have even one one every damned corner.
But, I’m one of those strange creatures who lives and works in the same county. It’s not a bad place to call home.
Shoot, I’ve even set my stories and novel in this part of the world. There’s enough people here, and enough variation, that I could write pretty much whatever I want.
I’d invite you all, but the truth is, I think we got enough people around here. =)