By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
EAU CLAIRE — There is a portion of M-140 in Berrien Township, just southeast of Eau Claire, that maneuvers around farmland for no apparent reason.
When looking northbound the state road veers left, onto Maple Grove Road, continues north, then turns right onto Eau Claire’s Main Street before continuing its trek north.
Many in the area find the state road a bit odd, and there seems to be no definitive answer as to why the highway is laid out in this manner.
Nick Schirripa, a Michigan Department of Transport spokesman, said the road must not have been built as a state highway. However, it likely was taken over as a way to connect several Berrien County roads.
After an inquiry from The Herald-Palladium, one of MDOT’s engineers passed along an interesting nugget to Schirripa.
“Looking at the old right-of-way sheets, the best guess is we could not get the farm owners to sell back in the early ’50s, so we just used the road already paved to the west to avoid the marshland or swampy area where Maple Grove Road ends,” Schirripa said. “Also of note, the connection of M-140 where it meets M-62 has a jog not directly on section lines, due to not wanting to build over another swamp.”
Brian Berndt, highway engineer for the Berrien County Road Commission, is known as somewhat of a road historian within his department.
However, Berndt said he has never researched M-140.
“That section of M-140 follows a section line,” Berndt explained during a phone interview Monday. “A lot of these roads when they were set up were section line roads. A lot of (county) roads are set up on section lines.”
Through this, Berndt also hypothesized that at some point, the stranger stretch of M-140 was a county road that was taken over as a state route.
After some digging among the road commission’s available documents, Berndt discovered M-140 was a county road as late as 1929. He then found a map in 1934, which showed M-140 as a state highway.
“Somewhere between 1929 and 1934, it was taken over by the state highway department,” Berndt said. “It was the same route back then. That’s how the roads were; they were on a grid.”
While there is no definitive conclusion regarding the reason M-140 doesn’t run straight north, there will always be theories.
“Back in 1929 there was also a railroad out there, just west of the road,” Berndt said, citing an atlas from 1929. “That might have also played into the road’s original construction, but we may never know for sure.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 21, 2017)