Interstate 196 serves as a spur from Interstate 96 and Grand Rapids to Interstate 94 and points south and west, especially to the regions of Michiana and the Chicagoland area.
Originally, what is now Interstate 196 was to be Interstate 96. In fact, the 1960 Rand McNally Atlas shows Interstate 94 and Interstate 96 both traveling southwest into Indiana, where presumably Interstate 96 ended. However, the routings were switched to their current alignments in the mid-1960s: Interstate 96 was relocated to its new terminus in Muskegon, while Interstate 196 took over the leg from St. Joseph to Grand Rapids.
Parallel U.S. Routes
Interstate 196 is cosigned with U.S. 31 from its southern terminus at St. Joseph/Benton Harbor north to Holland.
The freeway is being extended from its current southern terminus south along U.S. 31 to South Bend. Whether the Interstate 196 designation will also extend south along the U.S. 31 freeway remains to be seen. Between mile markers 0 and 44, Interstate 196 is signed North/South (cosigned with U.S. 31), and from mile marker 44 onward, Interstate 196 is signed East/West for the remaining length.
Traveling south on Interstate 196 and U.S. 31, the final interchange is with Interstate 94 east to Detroit and west to Chicago. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
The left lane connects to Interstate 94 east to Detroit, while the right lane offers the continuation of U.S. 31 south to Niles, South Bend, and Indianapolis as well as the connection to Interstate 94 west to Michigan City, Gary, and Chicago. A freeway connection to U.S. 31 south is under construction through here, but it has been delayed many times. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Shortly thereafter, an Interstate 196 ENDS shield assembly is posted. Photos taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01) and Dale Sanderson.
Southbound Interstate 196 at Interstate 94 sign bridge. Photos taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01) and Dale Sanderson.
Perspective from Interstate 94 east and U.S. 31 north
The first appearance of Exit 34, Junction Interstate 196 and U.S. 31 on eastbound Interstate 94 is this roadside two-mile advance sign near metropolitan St. Joseph-Benton Harbor. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (06/24/07).
Interstate 94 east and U.S. 31 north carry three lanes as the freeway bypasses Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The next exit is for Exit 34, Junction Interstate 196 and U.S. 31 north. Photos taken by Jeff Morrison (06/24/07) and Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Interstate 196 is one of the longer three-digit Interstates and is one of the few to have business routes - in fact, Interstate 196 has three: South Haven, Holland, and Grand Rapids (a business spur). U.S. 31 enjoys the ride on Interstate 196 to Holland, then aims north for a rendezvous with Interstate 96 in Muskegon. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (06/24/07).
Eastbound Interstate 94 reaches Exit 34, Junction Interstate 196 and U.S. 31 north to Holland and Grand Rapids. Interstate 196 hugs the shore of Lake Michigan past South Haven to Holland. At Holland, U.S. 31 continues north on a divided highway alignment, while Interstate 196 turns inland to meet Interstate 96 in Grand Rapids. Photos taken by Jeff Morrison (06/24/07) and Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
This photo shows the ramp transition from eastbound Interstate 94 to northbound Interstate 196. U.S. 31 follows the transition ramp for its continuation north toward Holland, Muskegon, Ludington, and Traverse City. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Perspective from Interstate 196 and U.S. 31 north
The first shield assembly on northbound Interstate 196 and U.S. 31 features this FHWA Highway Gothic Series B Interstate 196 shield. From here, Interstate 196 and U.S. 31 travel north to South Haven. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (06/24/07).
Approaching the beginning of Interstate 196 west from Interstate 96 westbound, the left two lanes connect to Interstate 196 west, and the right two lanes continue along Interstate 96 west. Photos taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Perspective from Interstate 196 east
The freeway curves as Interstate 196 east transitions from onto Interstate 96 east. There is no access from eastbound Interstate 96 to westbound Interstate 196, or from eastbound Interstate 196 to westbound Interstate 96. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (5/01).
Closeup of the End Interstate 196/Begin Interstate 96 sign in the previous photo. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (5/01).
These photos provide brief views of the Grand Rapids skyline as seen from Interstate 196 eastbound near the merge with Interstate 96 east. Photos taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (5/01).