M-28 is an east–west state trunkline highway that almost completely traverses the Upper Peninsula in the U.S. state of Michigan, from Wakefield to near Sault Ste. Marie in Dafter Township. Along with US Highway 2 (US 2), M-28 forms a pair of primary highways linking the Upper Peninsula from end to end, providing a major access route for traffic from Michigan and Canada along the southern shore of Lake Superior. M-28 is the longest state trunkline in Michigan numbered with the "M-" prefix at . The entire highway is listed on the National Highway System, while three sections of M-28 are part of the Lake Superior Circle Tour. M-28 also carries two memorial highway designations along its route.
Throughout its course across the Upper Peninsula, M-28 passes through forested woodlands, bog swamps, urbanized areas, and along the Lake Superior shoreline. Sections of roadway cross the Ottawa National Forest and both units of the Hiawatha National Forest. Some of the other landmarks accessible from M-28 include the Seney Stretch, Seney National Wildlife Refuge and several historic bridges.
M-28 is an original trunkline designation, dating to the 1919 formation of the state's trunkline system. The original highway was much shorter than the current version. M-28 was expanded eastward to the Sault Ste. Marie area in the late 1920s. The western end has been expanded twice to different locations on the Wisconsin state line. Other changes along the routing have led to the creation of three different business loops at various times, with one still extant. Future changes, proposed by Marquette County but not accepted by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), could see M-28 rerouted over County Road 480 (CR 480).
M-28 is a major highway for Michigan and Canadian traffic along the south shore of Lake Superior. It forms the northern half of a pair of primary trunklines linking the Upper Peninsula from end to end. US Route 2 (US 2) is the southern partner. The highway comprises mostly two lanes, undivided except for sections that are concurrent with US 41 near Marquette. The "Marquette Bypass" portion of US 41/M-28 is a four-lane expressway, and segments of the highway in Marquette County have four lanes. The entire route is part of the National Highway System, and three sections of the trunkline are part of the Lake Superior Circle Tour.
In Baraga and Marquette counties, US 41/M-28 passes through hilly terrain before entering the urban areas of Ishpeming, Negaunee and Marquette. Approximately 13,000 vehicles use this section from Ishpeming eastward through Negaunee. West of the city of Marquette, US 41/M-28 had a peak 2006 AADT of 34,700 vehicles in Marquette Township along a retail and business corridor. This peak level is sustained until the start of the Marquette Bypass, where the traffic returns to the 14,000-vehicle and higher levels seen in Ishpeming and Negaunee. South of the city of Marquette, traffic counts once again climb above 20,000 vehicles. In Chocolay Township the AADT drops to 8,100 vehicles before tapering off to 3,500 vehicles by the county line.
At the Ishpeming–Negaunee city line, M-28 changes memorial highway designations. From the western terminus to this point, M-28 is called the "Veterans Memorial Highway", but it becomes the "D. J. Jacobetti Memorial Highway" to honor the longest-serving member of the Michigan Legislature. The Jacobetti Highway designation ends at the eastern M-123 junction in Chippewa County.
Between Marquette and Munising, M-28 closely parallels the Lake Superior shoreline, providing scenic views of the lake and its "lonesome sandy beaches". The Lakenenland Sculpture Park is located in Chocolay Township near Shot Point in eastern Marquette County. This roadside attraction is owned by Tom Lakenen and features fanciful works of art made of scrap iron. Near the community of Au Train, M-28 crosses into the western unit of the Hiawatha National Forest. West of Munising is a ferry dock offering transport to the Grand Island National Recreation Area, and at Munising there is easy access to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The roadway also features variable message signs to warn motorists of winter weather-related traffic closures along the lakeshore. Installed at the US 41 and M-94 junctions, the signs advise motorists which sections of roadway are closed. Per MDOT policy, only snowplows are allowed on these sections during a closure. The highway exits the Hiawatha National Forest at the Alger County–Schoolcraft County line along the Seney Stretch.
The portion of M-28 between Seney and Shingleton, called the Seney Stretch, is of "straight-as-an-arrow highway" across the Great Manistique Swamp, "though others claim it's 50 miles [80 km], only because it seems longer." The highway is often cited as the "state's most boring route" according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Hunt's Guide. The straightness and flatness over a great distance are given as reasons for the reputation of this stretch as boring.
The road across the swamp was constructed parallel to the line of the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway (later the Soo Line Railroad). It was first numbered as a part of M-25 when that designation was used along today's M-28 east of US 41. The most significant changes made to the stretch since its original construction were the addition of passing relief lanes and a full-scale, year-round rest area in 1999.
Part of the Seney Stretch forms the northern border of the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1935, this refuge is a managed wetland in Schoolcraft County. It has an area of , and contains the Strangmoor Bog National Natural Landmark within its boundaries.
Past Seney, M-28 once again enters woodlands on the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula. In Luce County, the roadway passes through the community of McMillan en route to Newberry. The Circle Tour departs M-28 to follow M-123 at Newberry, looping north to the Tahquamenon Falls State Park. East of town, the road passes Luce County Airport off of Luce CR 399. From there, M-28 crosses the east and west branches of the Sage River and passes south of Soo Junction, before the Chippewa County border.
In Chippewa County, M-28 begins bending slightly east-northeastward. Hulbert Lake is located south of Hulbert; north of the lake, the highway enters the eastern unit of the Hiawatha National Forest. At the eastern junction of M-28 and M-123 near Eckerman and Strongs, the Circle Tour returns to M-28 and the D.J. Jacobetti Memorial Highway designation ends. The highway leaves the eastern unit of the Hiawatha National Forest between the communities of Raco and Brimley. M-221 leads north from the main highway on an old routing of M-28 to connect to the community of Brimley and the Bay Mills Indian Community. Brimley State Park is just east of Brimley on the old 6 Mile Road alignment of M-28. The highway meets I-75 at exit 386, and the Lake Superior Circle Tour departs M-28 to follow I-75. This interchange is just west of H-63/Mackinac Trail, a former segment of US 2. M-28 continues farther to its eastern terminus with M-129.
Along the routing of M-28, MDOT has established several roadside parks and rest areas. Two of these are in Ontonagon County near Ewen and Trout Creek. A park with a picnic area, and a footbridge lies near Tioga Creek in Baraga County east of the US 41 junction. In Three Lakes a scenic turnout and a roadside park overlook Lake Michigamme, and along Lake Superior south of Marquette is a tourist information center built as a log cabin. East of the H-01 junction in Au Train is a roadside park that includes Scott Falls. Further east, a year-round rest area is located on the west end of the Seney Stretch. Three other roadside parks lie east of Harvey in Shelter Bay, on the shores of Deer Lake and west of Newberry.
In 1941, the routings of M-28 and M-94 were reversed between Harvey and Munising. Since then, M-28 has run along the lakeshore through Au Train. M-28 was extended along US 2 to the state line at Ironwood, and the eastern end of M-28 through Brimley was moved to a new alignment ending at US 2, in Dafter in 1942. The eastern end was moved along US 2 back to Sault Ste. Marie in 1948, though the terminus was returned to Dafter in 1950.
From 1952 to 1962, M-28 crossed US 2 at Wakefield going south and stopped at the Wisconsin border, connecting with a county road. This segment of the highway (now Gogebic CR 519) was transferred back to the county in 1962. M-94 previously looped along Munising-Van Meer-Shingleton Road (now H-58 and H-15) north of M-28 between Munising and Shingleton. This routing was abandoned on November 7, 1963 in favor of the current concurrency. The last significant change to the M-28 routing occurred on March 3, 1989, when the eastern terminus was moved east to M-129.
Today, drivers cannot use the Peshekee River Bridge south of US 41/M-28 in western Marquette County's Michigamme Township. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 as "Trunk Line Bridge No. 1" for its engineering and architectural significance. MDOT has listed it as "one of Michigan's most important vehicular bridges." It was the first bridge designed by the Michigan State Highway Department, the forerunner to MDOT, in 1914. It was bypassed by a new bridge built over the Peshekee River on US 41/M-28 in 1995 and subsequently abandoned as a roadway.
The next historic bridge listed by MDOT along M-28 is over the Sand River in Onota Township in Alger County. While not visible to motorists, the bridge, constructed in 1939, is the longest rural rigid-frame span in Michigan. Most bridges of this type were built in urban locations, and soil conditions in the state limit locations for this style of bridge. The bridge over the East Branch of the Tahquamenon River in Chippewa County was built in 1926 as a "formative exercise in what would evolve into a state standard design." The bridge was built with nine lines of I-beams encased in concrete. Only one other bridge in Michigan was built with such concrete encasement.
In the August 24, 2005 edition, the Marquette Mining Journal reported that the Marquette County Board and the County Road Commission were negotiating with MDOT to transfer the jurisdiction of Marquette County Road 480 to the state. Several routing options have been discussed, though all would make CR 480 a part of M-28. Cost was the primary reason given behind rerouting M-28 along CR 480. "The road commission receives about $50,000 a year in state gas tax money but spends about $100,000 to maintain CR 480 because of the type and volume of traffic it receives." Handing CR 480 over to the state would shift the maintenance costs to the state, as well.
MDOT has indicated that it has not requested jurisdiction, but rather if it assumed control of the route, the community would need to support a through-route. Several proposals have arisen, including creating a "spur" from US 41/M-28 through the east end of Ishpeming to meet CR 480 west of Negaunee. This spur would pass through recently reopened former mining "caving grounds", and to the south of the Mather A & B Mine complex. According to Gerry Corkin, Marquette County Board Chairman, "the land that was purchased by Ishpeming and Negaunee, the mining company land, this has the potential to help in the development of that if this is compatible. I think both cities will be interested in taking a look at what the land uses are and where this [spur] would push through."
The spur proposal would open land to development between the downtown areas of the two cities. If jurisdiction is transferred, and M-28 is routed over CR 480 as proposed, M-28 would leave the concurrency with US 41 near Teal Lake in Negaunee, and cross the caving grounds west of downtown to connect to Rail Street. Rail Street would serve as the connector to CR 480, which ends at the intersection of Rail and Ann streets and Healey Avenue. Proposals indicate two routing options for the east end of CR 480. One would route M-28 back along US 41 from Beaver Grove north of the CR 480 eastern terminus to the existing M-28 in Harvey. A second would route it along CR 551/Cherry Creek Road from CR 480 to M-28 in Harvey.