‘Aretha L. Franklin Memorial Highway’ coming soon

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
The Michigan Legislature has paved the way for a portion of the Lodge Freeway to be named after the late Aretha Franklin.

Lansing — The Michigan Senate on Thursday gave final approval to legislation that would designate a portion of M-10 in Detroit as the "Aretha L. Franklin Memorial Highway,” sending the measure to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk for likely signature.

The honorary designation would span a portion of M-10, also know as the Lodge Freeway, that stretches from Livernois Avenue south to Interstate 94.

Franklin died last year after battle with pancreatic cancer. Lawmakers praised the iconic singer before the vote.

“We spend a lot of time talking about her as a performer, but not about the work that she did as a civil rights hero,” said Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit. “We are recognizing her in this road, not because of her time as a singer or performer, but because of the impact she had on this community.”

Former state Rep. Fred Durhal III, D-Detroit, had introduced similar legislation late last year, but the measure did not advance during the busy lame-duck session.

The new bill is sponsored by Rep. Leslie Love, D-Detroit, who introduced the measure in January. It cleared the House in a 101-6 vote in March. The Senate signed off 32-5.

A handful of Republicans opposed the measure in each chamber, arguing highway designations should be reserved for military veterans and first responders.

But Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, called the designation an appropriate honor for Franklin, “one of Michigan’s beloved heroes” whose songs “provided the soundtracks to our lives.”

Franklin holds a special place in music and Motown history, but she also was a “someone who stood up for civil rights, someone whose legacy transcends not just her space in the pantheon of musical genius, but someone whose name evokes worldwide, what it means to be from Detroit and from Michigan,” Geiss said.

The expected highway designation would be the latest in a series of tributes for Franklin, who was born in Tennessee but lived most of her life in Detroit and got her start in her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan last year announced plans to rename Chene Park, “our beautiful waterfront jewel,” as Aretha Franklin Amphitheater. City officials, joined by Franklin family members, celebrated the new park name in May.