MARQUETTE - The inventor of the highway centerline - which saw one of its first uses on a rural road in Marquette County - was honored last week with an international award.
The late Edward N. Hines, a charter member of the Wayne County Road Commission, was recognized as one of the great innovators in highway development, receiving the first Paul Mijksenaar Design for Function Award in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
In 1911, Hines got the idea to paint a centerline on roads to separate traffic after watching a leaking milk wagon leave a trail down a road. The first centerline on a rural state highway in the nation was painted on what is now County Road 492 in Marquette Township in 1917.
Although the inventor of the highway centerline, the late Edward N. Hines who received international recognition last week, was from downstate, the nation’s first centerline painted on a rural state highway was put in place on what is now Marquette County Road 492 in 1917. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"On behalf of the Hines family and the Michigan Department of Transportation, we thank Foundation Paul Mijksenaar for this tremendous honor," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle, who accepted the award on Hines' behalf. "The highway centerline has been called the single most important traffic safety device in the history of automobile transportation, and Edward Hines originated it right here in Michigan."
Painted centerlines were first used in 1911 on Trenton's River Road in Wayne County, where Hines served on the road commission until his death in 1938.
A historical marker now stands on County Road 492 between Marquette and Negaunee commemorating the use of the centerline on the highway.
According to the marker, the road that is now CR 492 was originally Michigan Highway 15, later called U.S. 41. Sharp curves and increasing traffic during World War I caused an increasing number of traffic fatalities between Marquette and Negaunee, particularly at a curve northwest of the marker that became known as Deadman's Curve.
At the suggestion of his foreman, William S. Skewis, Kenneth Ingalls Sawyer, superintendent of the Marquette County Road Commission, placed a painted centerline to help drivers stay in their own lanes.
In 1918, the Marquette County Road Commission painted centerlines on other county roads.
In 1972, Hines was inducted posthumously into the Michigan Transportation Hall of Honor in Lansing.
The Paul Mijksenaar Design for Function Award is organized by Foundation Paul Mijksenaar, a global multi-disciplinary center for research and debate in the field of information design and architecture in the modern world. Paul Mijksenaar is a designer of visual information systems, and the founder and director of the international design bureau Mijksenaar.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.