Source: December 31, 2015 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
This map shows the route of unsigned Interstate 296 between Interstate 196 and Interstate 96. During the 1980s, Interstate 296 shields were removed, and the route was signed consistently as U.S. 131. However, this short section is still part of the Interstate Highway System as evidenced by the Michigan Official State Map from 1978 (Grand Rapids inset)
This image provides an overview of the Interstate 296 interchanges at Interstate 196 and Interstate 96. Graphic prepared by Eric W. Vander Yacht.
Hidden (unsigned) Interstate 296 extends from Interstate 196 north to Interstate 96 via the U.S. 131 freeway in Grand Rapids. Originally, Interstate 296 was signed, but those signs were removed at the request of Michigan and as approved by AASHTO during the October 1979 meeting. Only 3.43 miles long, it was co-signed with U.S. 131 for the entire route with the exception of the long two-lane exit ramps to westbound Interstate 96 or from eastbound Interstate 96. Today, the designation is still valid and appears in the official route log. Interstate 296 exists in a manner similiar to that of Interstate 305 in California, Interstate 595 in Maryland, Interstate 110 in Texas, and Interstate 345 in Dallas, Texas. (Thanks to Eric Vander Yacht and Chris Bessert for additional information on hidden Interstate 296.)
The following is additional background information on area Interstates:
Interstate 96 was once proposed to bypass Grand Rapids to the south and than continue along the present Interstate 196 to Benton Harbor and continue along present Interstate 94 to the Chicago area.
Interstate 94 was once proposed to run from Kalamazoo southwest to South Bend and then continue on the toll road with Interstate 80 and Interstate 90.
Interstate 196 was supposed to run from the southwest side of Grand Rapids, parallel M-11 to present Interstate 196, then continue along present Interstate 96 to the terminus near Muskegon, Michigan.
Now traveling south on U.S. 131 (Interstate 296), this is the final reassurance shield before the interchange with Interstate 196. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (6/01).
Ramps appear on both sides of southbound U.S. 131 (Interstate 296) upon reaching the junction with Interstate 196. A left exit is required from southbound to Interstate 196 west, and a right exit is required to Interstate 196 east. The middle three lanes continue south on U.S. 131 to Kalamazoo. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (6/01).
At this point, Interstate 296 comes to an end. U.S. 131 continues south of Interstate 196 as a freeway. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (6/01).
Perspective from Interstate 196 east
Eastbound Interstate 196 reaches Exits 77A-B, Junction U.S. 131 (Interstate 296). A left exit is required to travel north on Interstate 296/U.S. 131 via Exit 77A. The next exit after this interchange is Exit 77C, Ottawa Avenue in Grand Rapids (Junction Business U.S. 131). Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Perspective from U.S. 131 north
Looking north from the parking lot of the Gerald R. Ford Museum, U.S. 131 north approaches Exits 86A-B, Junction Interstate 196. Note the use of left and right exits. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (06/25/07).
Northbound U.S. 131 reaches Exits 86A-B, Junction Interstate 196. From here, Interstate 296 silently merges with U.S. 131 for the distance north to Interstate 96. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (06/25/07).
Westbound Interstate 96 reaches U.S. 131 (Interstate 296). Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Perspective from U.S. 131 south
Looking south on the U.S. 131 freeway, this perspective is located south of Interstate 96 as we approach the overpass of northbound Interstate 296 heading for westbound Interstate 96. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (6/01).
Southbound U.S. 131 next merges with southbound Interstate 296 (unsigned) from eastbound Interstate 96. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (6/01).