As highlighted worldwide in the 2002 film “8 Mile”, Eight Mile has been seen as a divider between Detroit and its suburbs. This perception influenced not only Eminem’s music career but also public policy and private investment, creating inequality and tension. While Eight Mile continues to be portrayed as a dividing line, the corridor has a rich history as a bridge for our region, state and nation, which predates its negative perception.
Eight Mile was historically, and in some areas still is, known as “Baseline Road”, a name which comes from its distinction as the line upon which the Northwest Territories were mapped. Under the Land Ordinance Act of 1785, Eight Mile was drawn as the baseline on the first map of Michigan running east to west from lakeshore to lakeshore. The line continues west past Michigan, forming the state line between Wisconsin and Illinois. Eight Mile became the measuring point for Michigan’s township range numbers and other mile roads, essentially serving as the east-west axis for our entire state and as the common border for multiple communities, counties and state agencies.
Over time, however, Eight Mile became the flashpoint of regional polarization as socioeconomic tension between Detroit and its suburbs which has shaped our region’s policies for more than a half century since the end of World War II. Regional policy decisions have been and continue to be influenced by historical perceptions of Eight Mile as a regional dividing line. Through the efforts of 8MBA and its many partners, allies and other stakeholders, however, Eight Mile’s true role as a regional bridge, and its phenomenal potential – with nearly 50,000 cars per day, approximately 1,700 businesses and a diverse population – is increasingly overcoming this outdated perception.