Back in the the early 1900s, roads were a lot different from what we have today. First, a lot of them were still dirt -- only a few were paved at that time. Another big difference was the lack of any lane markings.

Who Came Up with the Idea for Centerlines on the Road?

We have to thank a man by the name of Edward N. Hines for a very important part of our roads today -- the centerlines!

Edward N. Hines
Photo: Michigan Department of Transportation via

Hines lived in Michigan and served as a charter member of the Wayne County Road Commission from 1906 until his death in 1938. He is responsible for the first full mile of concrete road ever built -- the strip of Woodward Avenue, in Detroit, between Six and Seven Mile Roads that was constructed in 1909.

How Did Milk Inspire Centerlines?

In 1911, Hines came up with an idea to paint centerlines on the road to separate traffic. He came up with the idea in the most unique way...

He created the centerline after watching a leaking milk wagon leave a white trail down a road!

It was later that year that centerlines were painted on Trenton's River Road in Wayne County. In 1917, the nation's first centerlines on a rural state highway were painted on what is now County Road 492 in Marquette County, Michigan.

Hines Received Several Awards for His Idea

In 1935, Hines was awarded the George S. Bartlett Award for outstanding contribution to highway progress.

In 1972, Hines was inducted posthumously in to Lansing's Michigan Transportation Hall of Honor. In that ceremony the centerline was described this way by then State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle...

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.

In 2011, Hines received the first Paul Mijksenaar Design for Function Award in Amsterdam. Mijksenaar is a designer of visual information systems and also the founder and director of the international design bureau Mijksenaar.

Edward Hines' Other Innovations

Hines was also a national leader in the landscaping of highway right-of-way. As a cyclist, he became an organizer of the League of American Wheelmen -- the forerunner of the Good Roads organization. Snow removal from public roads was another of his ideas.


50 of Michigan's "Must-Drive" Roads

Gas up the car, grab those road munchies and a roadtrip partner that you can trust, and head out on some of Michigan's most unique roads and routes. Make sure you take lots of photos and video!

See the Must-Drive Roads in Every State

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