End of US highway 45

View a map showing this route.

Photo credits: Don Hargraves; Karin and Martin Karner; Richard Montgomery; Jeff Morrison; Robert Mortell; Alex Nitzman; Greg Osbaldeston
Additional research: Adam Froehlig

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1926-1934 Des Plaines, IL Mobile, AL (Broad)
1935-1950s(?) Ontonagon, MI Mobile, AL (Broad)
1950s(?)-present Ontonagon, MI Mobile, AL (St. Stephens)

US 45 was an original 1926 route, although its north end was in the Chicago area at the time. Based on the historic maps I've seen, I think the endpoint was always intended to be in Des Plaines, but the route wasn't fully open to traffic that far north until about 1930. The 1931 map shows US 45 pretty much along its current path through Chicagoland: north on Mannheim Road to Lee Street in Des Plaines. The route ended at Northwest Highway, which was US 12 then. The photo below shows the scene:

Hargraves, Aug. 2002

That's looking north on Lee at Northwest Hwy (which is now US 14). Below we're looking the opposite direction:

Hargraves, Aug. 2002

That's looking south on Lee from Northwest Hwy, at an historic north beginning of US 45.


In 1934 the north end of US 45 was extended to its present terminus in Ontonagon, on Lake Superior in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The shot below shows the last northbound sign:

Mortell, Aug. 2011

That's looking northwest on River Street, between Tin Street and Copper Street. The large building in the background is also visible in the photo below, taken about four blocks ahead:

Osbaldeston, June 2001

The shore of Lake Superior is just on the opposite side of that building. Both of the signs shown there are gone now. At the time, M-64 began to the left on Ontonagon, so that junction was an appropriate place for US 45 to end. Now M-64's bridge over the Ontonagon River no longer exists; instead that highway connects with US 45 to the south of the downtown area (about a mile behind the camera). But US 45 doesn't end at that junction; it still continues to the same terminus in the downtown area. But the endpoint is signposted kind of strangely now, since there's no longer a highway junction here. As you're heading north on River, you encounter a sign that says "To South US 45". If you keep following those signs, you end up driving in a loop formed by Chippewa, Michigan, and Lake streets; and finally back the opposite direction on River:

Mortell, Aug. 2011

M-64 used to begin to the right on Ontonagon; US 45 still begins straight ahead. A half-block in that direction, there is a great sign:

Osbaldeston, June 2001

When the Google Street View car went through town in 2008, its photos showed the sign frame, but the sign itself was gone. Fortunately, by the time of Robert's visit in 2011, a new and improved sign had been installed...

Morrison, July 2013

...below is a close-up:

Mortell, Aug. 2011

It originally said "Golf of Mexico", but then the top part of the "O" was rubbed out. However, the outline of the U.S. is more accurate now, and overall I think the sign is a bit more aesthetically pleasing. Like the old sign, it inspires wonder - I wish all of the long US routes had something like this at their endpoints.


The south end of US 45 has always been in Mobile AL, although the endpoint was originally downtown (you can view photos from there on this page). At some point (as early as 1955) the south end was truncated to its current terminus on Spring Hill Avenue (US 98) at the Y-intersection with St. Stephens Road:

Nitzman, 2004

To the right is the modern south beginning of US 45. See the yellow sign behind the US 45 marker? That's right about where the first northbound reassurance marker is posted:

Nitzman, 2004

Note the funky shape of that shield. There used to be a perfectly normal one there...

Nitzman, 2002

...so I don't know why it was replaced. The shot below is looking at the south end of US 45 on St. Stephens at Spring Hill:

Nitzman, 2004

Those signs, too, have since been replaced with ugly versions:

Karners, Jan. 2010

Why would you spend taxpayer dollars to replace perfectly good signs with new versions that are not MUTCD-compliant?