JAMES COUZENS HIGHWAY & THE JOHN C. LODGE EXPRESSWAY
Have you ever wondered why that entire 3.6 mile long stretch of the John C. Lodge Freeway, beginning at Wyoming in
Detroit onward past Eight Mile Road, was built using concrete retaining walls instead of the normal grassy slope landscaping
found along most of the rest of that freeway?   Well, there were two major factors that come to mind that played primary
roles -- space conservation and economics.
To help explain it all, we probably need to first go back to the beginning. During the years prior to
and during
World War II, numerous studies were conducted on developing and building a massive
expressway network within the city of Detroit. Included were proposals to construct expressways
alongside a number of the median-divided "Super-Highways" that already ran through the city out
toward its northern suburbs. Woodward Avenue north of McNichols and Mound Road north of
Davison were two median-divided highways that were being considered at the time for renovation
into expressways. Two other divided highways -- Southfield Road and James Couzens Highway --
were actually later converted into expressways. Building expressways routes along already
established extra-wide highways eliminated the extra land acquisition costs, as most of the
expressway could be built right through the highway's existing center-median.

The original Expressway Plan prepared in 1943 by Mayor Edward J. Jeffries' Street Improvement
Committee originally called for the John C. Lodge Expressway (named for Detroit's 51st, 54th and
56th Mayor) to continue on a path northward along Hamilton Avenue, then rip through the city of
Highland Park to just south of McNichols, where it was to then swing eastward to Woodward
Avenue. It would then continue northward along the Woodward Avenue "Super-Highway" out into
the northern Detroit suburbs. However, it appears that Highland Park evidently fought the building
of expressways through that enclave, as both the John C. Lodge and the Walter P. Chrysler (I-75)
freeways both follow paths that deviate around that city's borders.
One of the first
expressways to be
built in Detroit was
named after former
Detroit mayor John
Christian (Cabot)
Lodge,
The final plans would route the Lodge away from Highland Park as the expressway approached Chicago Blvd., and instead
followed a pathway right along the western Highland Park common border with Detroit. Interestingly, one early Wayne
County Road Commission study proposed that the Lodge Expressway follow along Davison Avenue and out Schoolcraft
-- similar to the path which the I-96 (Jeffries Freeway) follows today. At the time, another proposed expressway was also
being planned along James Couzens Highway -- another median-divided highway which traveled a northwesterly path
beginning at Wyoming (just north of Fenkell) out toward the Oakland County suburbs. Original plans called for extending
the James Couzens Highway along its diagonal path southward across Wyoming, and then connecting it with the Lodge
Expressway in the vicinity of Oakman Blvd and Davison. However, as the Detroit freeway system continued to develop,
the Lodge eventually took another path.

First construction on the Lodge began in early 1949, along-side Henry Ford Hospital -- between Lothrup and Milwaukee.
The first half-mile segment to open to traffic were the northbound lanes between Holden and Pallister, which opened in
October 1950, while the soutbound lanes opened on December 5, 1950. On May 1, 1953, the expressway was extended
from Holden to Temple, and by the fall of 1954 the potion into downtown (just north of Fort Street) had been completed.

By early 1957, two segments of the John C. Lodge were open to traffic -- a shorter one mile-and-a-half long segment
between Wyoming and Linwood, and the entire stretch between Glendale into the downtown area, the last segment of
which opened in October of 1955. Only those portions from the "Linwood Curve" to Glendale, and under Cobo Hall
downtown were still under construction. The final half-mile downtown portion, which dips under Cobo Hall, opened on
November 3, 1959. By the fall of 1957, the entire first leg of the John C. Lodge Expressway had been completed from the
downtown area out to Wyoming. Traffic was then diverted onto a surface roadway, which would connect with the James
Couzens Highway. November 10, 1959.

During the early 1960's the second leg of the expressway was constructed. The expressway was extended westward
through the "Wyoming Curve," where it then followed a northwesterly path right through James Couzens Highway into
Northwestern Highway in Oakland County. Final segment completed in June 1964. The former James Couzens Highway
was designed as a scenic divided six-lane highway with a wide tree lined center median  Constructing the expressway
through the highway's very-wide center median not only eliminated the acquisition of private land, but also saved in
building demolition coats. The building of the retaining walls in place of the sloping grassland allowed for the surface
roadway of the highway to remain intact, while the below ground expressway was dug within the median. Originally, that
portion of the freeway carried the name "James Couzens Expressway." It wasn't until the 1980's when the entire freeway,
from downtown to Telegraph was officially renamed the "John C. Lodge Expressway." The current James Couzens Service
Drive, which runs along that portion of the Lodge Freeway, is actually the roadway of the original James Couzens Highway.
footnotes:
Plymouth Express, Lodge to Bagley exit on Jan 31, 1955
Joy Express, Lodge to Howard exit on Nov 21, 1955


James Couzens Highway ramp to the Lodge opened on November 1, 1956.
Detroit News photos -- St. Olaf Evangelical Lutheran Church - James
Couzens Hgwy at Wyoming
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DETROIT TRANSIT HISTORY
DETROIT TRANSIT HISTORY
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The web-site which takes a look back at the History of Public Transportation in and around the
City of Detroit.
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