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U.S. Route 12

U.S. Route 12, or US 12, is an east-west United States highway running from Grays Harbor on the Pacific Ocean in the state of Washington to downtown Detroit for almost 2500 miles (4000 km). As a thoroughfare, it has mostly been supplanted by I-90 and I-94, but remains an important road for local travel.

The highway begins in Aberdeen, Washington, at an intersection with U.S. Route 101. It's eastern terminus is currently in downtown Detroit at the corner of Michigan and Cass.

Route description

Major cities


The western terminus of U.S. 12 is located in Aberdeen, Washington. In the 1960s, a portion of U.S. 12 was moved north connecting to the town of Morton, Washington when the Mossyrock dam was built and flooded the Cowlitz river and the towns of Kosmos, Washington and Riffe in Lewis County. A large portion of old two-lane U.S. 12 was replaced by Interstate 82 and Interstate 182 between Yakima, Washington and the Tri-Cities, though the freeways are still cosigned with the U.S. 12 designation. The old two-lane highway now bears the name "Wine Country Road". The highway loosely follows the eastbound leg of the Lewis and Clark Expedition between Wallula, Washington and Clarkston, Washington, thus being marked as part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The east end of the highway in the state is at Clarkston, Washington, where the highway crosses the Snake River into Idaho.

The Washington section of U.S. 12, other than a concurrency with Interstate 5, is defined at Washington Revised Code § 47.17.055.


U.S. 12 follows the Clearwater River from Lewiston to Orofino, continuing up the middle fork of that river to Lowell, then up the Lochsa River to Lolo Pass at the Idaho/Montana border. This portion of the highway is also designated as part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Most of the highway running though the state is within the Clearwater National Forest. This section of U.S. 12 was completed in the early 1960s. No services are available between Lowell and Powell, about further east.


U.S. 12 enters Montana near Lolo Hot Springs in the Lolo National Forest. After traveling east for it meets with U.S. Route 93 at Lolo and continues as a concurrency northeast for until it meets with Interstate 90. It then overlaps I-90 for until Garrison. From there it heads east and becomes an express just past Elliston. Here is passes through the Helena National Forest, and then on to the capital, Helena where it junctions with Interstate 15 and U.S. Route 287. It then overlaps U.S. 287 and heads southeast toward Townsend where it splits off on its own and heads east until it meets with U.S. Route 89. It overlaps U.S. 89 for until just past White Sulphur Springs where it continues east on its own for until Interstate 94. The major junctions along the way are U.S. Route 191 at Harlowton and U.S. Route 87 at Roundup. At exit 93 near Forsyth U.S. 12 overlaps I-94 for until Miles City where it again splits off on its own and heads east for to North Dakota passing through Baker on the way.

North Dakota

U.S. 12 is a two-lane highway that runs 87.47 miles (140.8 km) through Adams, Bowman, and Slope counties in southwest North Dakota. The speed limit is 65 miles per hour on rural segments, with slower posted speeds within the cities of Marmarth, Rhame, Bowman, Scranton, and Hettinger. U.S. 12 meets with U.S. 85 in Bowman; the routes are concurrent for a short distance through the city.

South Dakota

U.S. Route 12 enters South Dakota from North Dakota as a rural two lane highway about west/northwest of Lemmon. For approximately the next U.S. 12 runs parallel to the border of North Dakota, sometimes within less than a mile. At Walker U.S. 12 heads southeast for where it crosses the Missouri River at Mobridge. From there it continues east for until it meets with U.S. Route 83 near Selby. It overlaps U.S. 83 for , and about half of that distance it is an expressway. After leaving U.S. 83 it turns due east and spends about as a rural two lane highway again. A few miles before reaching Aberdeen it becomes an at grade expressway. After the junction with U.S. Route 281 it goes back to being two lane for a few miles, before once again becoming a 4 lane expressway until before Waubay. It then meets with Interstate 29 near Summit. From there it is heads southeast until Milbank. At Milbank it turns back northeast for until it crosses into Minnesota at Big Stone City just south of Big Stone Lake.
Legal Definition
The South Dakota section of U.S. 12 is defined at South Dakota Codified Laws § 31-4-132.


From the South Dakota/Minnesota state line at Ortonville, Minnesota, to Wayzata, U.S. 12 is mostly a rural two-lane highway with a . speed limit, with slower speed limits through towns and a four-lane surface arterial segment through Willmar. From western Wayzata to Interstate 394 in Minnetonka, U.S. 12 is a six-lane freeway. East of I-494, U.S. 12 is invisibly concurrent with Interstates 394 and 94 through Minneapolis and St. Paul to the Minnesota/Wisconsin state line at Hudson, Wisconsin.

A two-lane freeway/super-2 bypass through Orono and Long Lake is currently under construction, and will tie into the current freeway at Wayzata. It is expected to open in the fall of 2008.

The Minnesota section of U.S. 12 is defined as Routes 149, 26, and 10 in Minnesota Statutes §§ 161.115(80) and 161.114(2).


From Elkhorn, Wisconsin to near the Illinois/Wisconsin state line, U.S. Route 12 is a freeway with a speed limit. It continues as a two-lane highway until it approaches the city of Whitewater, where a new bypass has been constructed. It is currently two lane, but can be expanded to four lanes. US 12 continues west to Madison, Wisconsin. As U.S. 12 nears Madison, Wisconsin, it merges with U.S. 14, U.S. 151 and U.S. 18 to form the West Beltline Highway, a four to six-lane freeway that encircles the south and west portions of the city, with a speed limit of . From Middleton, Wisconsin the highway continues on a four-lane road completed in 2004, to cross the Wisconsin River at Sauk City, Wisconsin.


In Illinois, U.S. Route 12 is an arterial surface road that runs from Richmond southeast to Des Plaines. It then turns due south through the Chicago metropolitan area, joining with U.S. Route 45. U.S. Route 20 joins U.S. 12/45 in Stone Park. In Hickory Hills, U.S. 45 continues south, while U.S. 12/20 runs due east in the southwest suburbs. From Hickory Hills, U.S. 12/20 runs east nearly to the Lake Michigan lakefront, and then joins with U.S. Route 41 as all three routes travel southeast into the state of Indiana.

US 12 is referred to as Rand Road in Chicago's northwest suburbs. Rand is an original name for the area around Des Plaines, Illinois, the location where the road resumes its westerly direction. South of Des Plaines, US 12 follows Mannheim Rd and then 95th St until the Indiana line.


In Indiana, U.S. Route 12 is a historically significant route that winds along the southern coast of Lake Michigan. It runs from an interchange with the Indiana Toll Road, concurrent with U.S. Routes 20 and 41 in Whiting, to Michiana Shores at the Michigan state line. A large portion of this segment is known as the Dunes Highway.


U.S. 12 is now the only U.S. highway route still serving downtown Detroit, whose street grid was laid by Augustus Woodward to have a five-way intersection of the roads that would become U.S. 12, U.S. 10, U.S. 16, U.S. 112, and U.S. 25. US-24 still travels through Detroit from Puritan to 8 Mile Road on the far-west-side.

As from the earliest days of its existence, US 12 enters Michigan from Indiana southwest of New Buffalo, Michigan and continues to the old junction of US 12 and US 112 in New Buffalo. It is now assigned between New Buffalo and Detroit (except through Ypsilanti) along what was US 112 until 1962.


Since the highway's creation in 1926, the eastern terminus has always remained within a few blocks of this point.

  • 1926: Cadillac Square at the convergence with US-10, US-16, US-25, and US-112. US-12 goes along Grand River. The original ending was at Miles City, Montana.
  • 1939: AASHTO approved a request to extend US-12 to Yellowstone National Park.
  • 1956: US-12 was rerouted along the Lodge Freeway ending on Jefferson; the terminus moved four blocks southeast to the corner of Woodward Avenue (US-10) and Jefferson Avenue.
  • 1959: Extended to Missoula, Montana.
  • 1962: US-112 is decommissioned and its entire old route becomes US-12. US-12 now runs along Michigan avenue and again ends at Cadillac square. It was extended to Lewiston, Idaho.
  • 1969: Extended to Aberdeen, Washington to its present terminus at US-101.
  • 1970: US-10 is rerouted from Woodward to the Lodge Freeway and Jefferson. At this time US-12 apparently is extended along Woodward to again terminate with US-10 at Woodward and Jefferson, though with the designations flip-flopped from their 1956 routing.
  • 2001: The City of Detroit and the Michigan Department of Transportation in a series of jurisdictional transfers moves the terminus back four blocks to again be at Cadillac Square.
  • 2005: In another transfer, the US-12 terminus is truncated another four blocks to end at the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building on the corner of Michigan and Cass Avenue.

The western terminus was gradually extended westward until it met up with the Pacific Ocean.

Former ferry crossing

In 1925, US-12 in Michigan was originally proposed to run from Detroit to Ludington, Michigan, and across Lake Michigan via car ferry to Manitowoc, Wisconsin and continue into Wisconsin on what later became US-10 in those two states. Also, US-12 originally went into Wyoming before being rerouted into Montana, and was proposed to go into Oregon, but did not.

Chicago freeway

US 12 was originally planned to be a freeway from Chicago, IL to Madison, WI. The portion from Genoa City, WI, to Elkhorn, WI was already being built when the Interstate system was announced. After the Interstate program was announced, and due to the fact that Wisconsin was not able to obtain some right-of-way land north of Elkhorn, construction was stopped. Since construction was stopped, Illinois never built any of it, but the rough grading and off-ramps are still there in Illinois. In Elkhorn the ramps also continue past the intersection where construction stopped but they are not used. Much of US 12 in Illinois is divided highway, but it is surface road.

See also

Related US Routes


External links

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