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Heavy Traffic on the Lodge Expressway Detroit, Michigan

The full-sized version of the enlargement in the lead image is a 1955 Detroit News photo that contains a section of the John C. Lodge Expressway (M10) taken on opening day. The picture was taken from the Glendale Avenue bridge looking south at the northbound evening rush hour traffic. This bridge is located 6.2-miles north of the beginning of the highway in downtown Detroit and is located between the north and southbound 7A exits.

In the background of the full-sized image (2nd photo below) is the Elmhurst Avenue Exit 6B (only southbound) and bridge. An individual is visible riding a bicycle north on the edge of the left-hand lane opposite of the Packard sedan in the southbound lane.

Share with us what you find of interest in the picture or can add to the story. The photograph is courtesy of the Wayne State University Libraries.

25 responses to “Heavy Traffic on the Lodge Expressway Detroit, Michigan

  1. I’m struck by how new the cars are — mostly no more than two or three years old. You’ve got to go back quite a ways in the right-hand lane to find something that might be from the forties.

    I wonder if this reflects how drivetrains were changing in the mid fifties, becoming more highway-friendly. Drivers may have felt nervous about taking an earlier car out into fastmoving traffic.

    • David,

      It’s Detroit. At that time, the home of the auto manufacturers (Japan who?) and the land of high -for-the-time-period, union-won auto factory wages. Employees were urged to trade early and trade often.

      If anyplace in America would have the most per-capita new cars, I would think this would be it. With the later crash of the auto industry, it was the reason Detroit fell so far.

      • That is certainly true, David. 1955 was the peak of prosperity in Detroit. That said, this is afternoon rush hour, just about every car here is coming from downtown (or the General Motors building and environs), and a lot of those cars have guys with white shirts and ties, I guarantee you. The rising tide truly was lifting all boats then.

  2. The driver of the ’55 Chevy pickup( who drilled holes in the tops of the fender of a new truck for turn signals, (would a dealer do that?) is pushing the Buick, and the Buick has the face to match, farther back, a ’51 Ford F1 panel truck.
    For the “why hasn’t it been done”, it always seemed so silly to me, that when traffic is backed up in one direction, and virtually no one going the other way, why not open the other side for more lanes, kind of like Chicago, although, even that is poorly planned, as the “express lanes” merge into the regular lanes eventually,, causing an even bigger backup.

  3. As it’s opening day of the Expressway, and none of the cars appears to have a family going out “for a ride on the new highway”, that every one of those drivers thought; “I’ll take the expressway. It’s brand new. No one will be on it.”

  4. At the right side of the pictures, it looks like they are building an inclined concrete retaining wall for the overpass where the photographer was. That would never fly today without barrels of sand or water, etc. at the end.

    Inclined ramps were minimized to prevent airborne autos in crashes

    • The car on the right (heading southbound) appears to be a 1948-49 Packard Custom Eight with Van Aucken accessory rear bumper guards and cross-bar. The roof appears to have a special treatment… but it’s not a Nash or Hudson.

      It is also important to note that the Expressway was not exactly finished at this time–despite being opened.Concrete caps and aluminum railings were added atop the retaining wall on the center incline here at one point. And there were other changes.

      And later, a metal center guard rail was added… then modified when the experimental electronic traffic control system was installed later still. This traffic control system was very futuristic and included TV cameras, electronic signage, sensors and more. It was way ahead… actually predicted some systems being used today in certain areas… but nobody seems to remember any of this. It was when Detroit was really cooking. About the same time they had specially colored asphalt pavement (green, yellow, red) on surface streets around town to indicate turn lanes and through lanes, etc.

      At one point the metal guard rails had emergency cross-over points where if one side of the Expressway was blocked, the closest cross-over was opened (guard rails unlocked and slid open and section under was paved with curbs removed). Of course this whole (very expensive retrofit) system was trashed and made moot decades later when concrete center barriers were installed on Detroit Expressways. One big reason for the final change was a horrible accident on the Edsel Ford Expressway one holiday weekend when a speeding car (I believe headed east) crossed the center divider and landed on top of a car headed in the opposite direction. After that, the concrete barriers were constructed city wide.

      Also shown here is a right-hand emergency lane, but this actually came into being as an apparent afterthought since initial Expressway constructions in Detroit did not include these lanes and they had to be retrofit, some prior to opening as here.

      • You know, it actually does look like a bicycle coming at us, northbound in the southbound fast lane… I kept saying “Gotta be a southbound motorcycle!”. But no, I do think it’s a bicycle. And being from Detroit, it is not at all surprising. Now, you won’t see this on a freeway these days… but on any surface street, you’re bound to run into (not literally… hopefully) a person (often an adult who sure oughta know better!) coming at you on a bicycle! There persists this belief that you are exempt from traffic laws… I also think a lot of these people recall being taught in school “Walk on the left side of the road, opposite traffic”, which is good advice, if you’re on a country road with no sidewalk and WALKING. This freeway would have had a speed limit of only 50 or maybe 55 mph at this time. That’s still faster than I’d like to be clobbered by a car…
        Now I will say that, once in the 1980s when I was going straight across town from Joy and Evergreen to Seven Mile and Gratiot, on my bicycle (a ten-speed road bike), I did come to the on-ramp to where the Davison Freeway begins, and the ramp did NOT have the “Motor Vehicles Only” sign that by then all the freeway on-ramps had. So I took the Davison its entire length… Riding the right side fog line, WITH traffic. Speed on the Davison at that time was (and is still) 55 mph, so not CRAZy crazy, but I admit a bit crazy of me. I could keep up a speed of about 22 mph on the flat at that time.

  5. Only two Packards in view, both two-tones, a ’52 200 Deluxe on the left facing the camera and a ’48- ’49 22nd Series sedan headed up the other lane at a distance.

  6. All these Dee-troit photos lately reminds me of that Motor City Comic book put out by Print Mint in the early 70s.
    Big late 40s sedans throwing their weight around,practically running down pedestrians.bossing mechanics around like they were servants.
    A town where cars called the shots and humans were only there to serve them.Hi-larious!

  7. Double trouble. 1. From the freeway image – the cars may very well be stalled in a traffic jam. That’s progress!
    2. Pity the folks living beside this highway.

  8. I remember before the Lodge was dug houses and buildings were in the way. One day we got stuck for almost an hour in traffic. There was a line of maybe a dozen large wood frame houses being slooooowly moved to new locations. Most buidings were demolished for this road but for some reason these houses were saved.
    The Lodge was a northwest bound expressway and Northwest Detroit was primarily middle class and white collar.

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