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I-196  Michigan (link)

80.65 miles [1note]; from I-94 in Benton Harbor to I-96 in Grand Rapids. The northern portion of Interstate 196 (in Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan counties) is known as the Gerald R. Ford Freeway. [8note] (Old Saturday Night Live fans would rather see this name applied to a highway in Chevy Chase, Maryland.)

I-480 in Omaha is also called the Gerald R. Ford Freeway. [11note]

Changes in Proposed Numbering

Originally (1957-58), the Benton Harbor - Grand Rapids - Detroit highway (now I-96 and I-196) was to be part of Interstate 94. A short spur to Muskegon from Grand Rapids was to be I-94N. (Today's I-94 between Benton Harbor and Detroit was to be Interstate 92.) [9note] [10note]

In April 1958, meanwhile, the Michigan Highway Department recommended: [13note]

  • Benton Harbor to Grand Rapids route: I-67
  • Muskegon - Grand Rapids - Detroit route: I-96 (as it is today)
  • Short Grand Rapids bypass, to west and south: I-196
AASHO turned down the I-67 idea because it wanted to keep the number in reserve for people to fight over later. [14note] (Just kidding about the fight part.)

Changes between I-96 and I-196

By the early 1960s, I-96 followed the 1957 I-94 route, from Benton Harbor to Grand Rapids to Detroit. The 37-mile spur from Grand Rapids to Muskegon (old I-94N) was called I-196.

Many Michiganders were unhappy with the designation. The Detroit to Muskegon route, which was the predominant traffic pattern and had enjoyed a single number since 1920, now changed suddenly from I-96 to I-196 as drivers traveled west. It was difficult to provide clear, concise guide signage in the area. [15note]

On May 1, 1963, Highway Commissioner John Mackie announced the State Highway Department would petition AASHO to redesignate area routes to provide a continuous route number to Muskegon. [14note] His proposal:

  • Muskegon to Detroit route: I-96 (as it is today)
  • Benton Harbor to Grand Rapids route: I-196 or another number

On Aug. 24, 1963, the State Highway Department submitted the request to AASHO. Its proposal revived the old I-67 idea, much like the 1958 plan: [15note]

  • Muskegon to Detroit route: I-96 (as it is today)
  • Benton Harbor to Grand Rapids route: I-67

Highway Department spokesmen said the AASHO review would take several months. Not long afterward, AASHO approved the request in part. I-196 became part of a unified I-96 as desired. However, the same wish to keep I-67 in reserve prevailed, and Michigan's proposed I-67 became the new I-196.

I-196: I-67? redux

What was old could be new again. US 31 is being upgraded between Benton Harbor and South Bend, Indiana, and many lay people at least are talking about designating I-67 in the area. If that ever happened, it would probably incorporate all of I-196 except the Holland - Grand Rapids portion, which diverges from US 31.

See also:


I-296 (not signed as interstate)  Michigan (link)

3.43 miles [1note]; an unposted ("secret") designation for part of US 131 in Grand Rapids.

The I-296 section of US 131 was completed (and numbered I-296/US 131) in 1963. [4note] Although it appears not to have ever been signposted, I-296 used to appear on maps regularly until the late 1970s.

In an email to fellow roadgeek Chris Bessert, MDOT official Ari Adler, head of communications for the Grand Region, confirmed the I-296 designation "is still officially there, although rarely used, except internally." [3note]


I-496  Michigan (link)

11.78 miles [1note]; loop of I-96 in Lansing. Also know as the Olds Freeway [5note], Interstate 496 was completed around 1970. Michigan's original preferred number for this highway was I-296. [13note]


I-696  Michigan (link)

29.39 miles [1note]; from I-96 east to I-94 in north Detroit Metro area. It's called the Walter Reuther Freeway. [5note] Interstate 696 is eight lanes throughout, except for a six-lane section near Telegraph and Southfield. The oldest segment (1965 or earlier) is between I-96 and US 24; the section between I-75 and I-94 opened in 1979; the final 9.1 mile section, between M-10 and I-75, opened on December 14, 1989. [2note]

The northern bypass of Detroit has been planned since at least the 1950s. In 1958, Michigan's preferred number for the highway was, believe it or not, I-98. (Other short Michigan-only interstate proposals were 67, 73, and 77.) [13note]

Disputed in 1970

In 1970, proposed I-696 in Oakland gained federal attention as one of the "Major Interstate System Route Controversy in Urban Areas" -- a select group of 21 highly contested freeways including Boston's Inner Belt (I-695), Hartford's I-291, and Washington D.C.'s Potomac River Freeway (I-266). Here is the assessment of I-696:

"Prior to 1967, Michigan law required the approval of local communities for highway design and locations. Since the State was not able to obtain approval of any alternate location for I-696 by the eight communities involved, an arbitration law was passed in 1967 to settle Interstate highway disputes. The arbitration board selected a location generally proposed by the highway department. Two of the communities, Pleasant Ridge and Lathrup Village, contested the constitutionality of the arbitration board. The State Supreme Court has heard the case and found the an arbitration to be constitutional." [12note]

See also:


  1. Route Log and Finder List - Interstate Highways, FHWA, Oct. 31, 2002.
  2. Detroit News, Dec. 8, 1989
  3. Bessert, Chris. "I-296 in Michigan still officially exists!." Online posting, misc.transport.road, Aug. 18, 2000.
  4. Bessert, Chris. "Re: I-296 in Michigan...." Online posting, misc.transport.road, Aug. 20, 2000.
  5. Schulz, Kurt. "I-696." Personal email, Aug. 25, 2000.
  6. Fannin, Marc. "I-196." Personal email, Mar. 19, 2002.
  7. "Official Route Numbering for the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways." Map, as adopted Aug. 14, 1957 by the American Association of State Highway Officials [AASHO; now AASHTO]. Thanks to Richard C. Moeur.
  8. "Official Route Numbering for the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways." Map, as adopted June 28, 1958 by the American Association of State Highway Officials [AASHO; now AASHTO]. Thanks to Richard C. Moeur.
  9. Moerland, Steve. "I-480 in Omaha." Personal email, April 29, 2002.
  10. "Report on the Status of the Federal-Aid Highway Program." Hearing before the Subcommittee on Roads of the Committee on Public Works, U. S. Senate; April 15, 1970.
  11. "Recommended Numbering, Interstate Highways in Michigan." Michigan State Highway Department, April 25, 1958. Thanks to Stephen Summers.
  12. Bessert, Chris. "Mich: I-96 & I-196 designations to shift - May 1, 1963 article." Online posting, misc.transport.road, 21 May 2004.
  13. "Muskegon Freeway Link Number Change Sought." Holland [Mich.] Evening Sun, Aug. 24, 1963.