Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Davison Freeway

The Davison Freeway was the first urban freeway constructed in the United States and is approximately five and a half miles long. The Davison Freeway was built in 1941 and 1942 and was opened in late 1942. From 1942 up until 1993, it was a county freeway, but in 1993 the freeway was transferred to state control and was named M-8. The Davison Freeway connects two freeways: the John C. Lodge Freeway, also known as M-10; and the Chrysler Freeway, also known as I-75.

The Davison Freeway was named after Jarad Davison, an English immigrant who was an early settler in that area. Originally, Davison Avenue was the only street that connected across Highland Park and Detroit. Due to heavy traffic in the area, the Highland Park Council approved a proposal to build a six-lane freeway and construction began in 1941. The freeway’s construction was going as planned, but the due to the United States involvement in World War II, defense plants wanted easy access to the freeway to transport their weapons, so construction pace had to increase.

On November 25, 1942, the freeway was opened without a dedication ceremony. Travel time to and from Detroit improved from approximately fifteen minutes to around three to four minutes after the expressway was opened, and thus the first urban freeway in the United States was born. In 1968, the freeway was extended eastward to its present day terminus near Conant Street. This extension was due to the opening of (1-75) Chrysler Freeway and a subsequent junction between the two freeways.

Over the years, the freeway was not maintained and began to deteriorate. Consequently, in the mid-1990s, it was closed for a 45 million dollar reconstruction project. At that time, the freeway still had its original concrete surface from 1944 with three-lanes in each direction with narrow spacing for passing, no shoulders on the side, and a small grassy median. The construction lasted over a year, and the freeway reopened in 1997. Today, it has four wider lanes, a new exit to Woodward Ave, shoulders, and new bridges which improved safety for motorists and access to the City of Highland Park.

Written by Everett C.J. Whitfield and Caitlin Brennecke

 


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Davison Freeway construction, 1942

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