Intrastate Interstate 96 traverses southern Michigan from Muskegon east to Detroit. The freeway begins at a cloverleaf interchange with U.S. 31 at Norton Shores. Angling southeast from there, I-96 heads to Crockery Township where it turns east to Coopersville and the north side of Grand Rapids.
Bypassing Furniture City to the north and east, Interstate 96 circles southward to Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) and the east end of the M-6 freeway before resuming an eastward course to Portland. Southeast from there, the freeway parallels both the Looking Glass and Grand Rivers to combine with Interstate 69 to the west of Lansing.
East from Interstate 69, I-96 spans the Grand River ahead of south Lansing to Michigan State University and the U.S. 127 freeway. Interstate 496 loops through the city, serving both the state capitol complex and Downtown.
Becoming rural again, Interstate 96 leaves Lansing to pass by the villages of Webberville and Fowlerville and the small cities of Howell and Brighton. The Detroit suburbs ensue from U.S. 23 and Brighton east along I-96 to the interchange complex with Interstate 275, Interstate 696 and M-5 at Novi. I-96 turns south there along side I-275 from Novi to Livonia.
The remainder of Interstate 96 east through Livonia and into Detroit is an urban freeway, with a dual roadway section between Exits 180 (Outer Drive) and 186B (Davison Street). Beyond the three-wye interchange with M-8, I-96 curves southeast along the Jeffries Freeway to meet Interstate 94 and Interstate 75 (Fisher Freeway) before ending at the ramps to the Ambassador Bridge linking Michigan with Windsor, Ontario.
Originally, Interstate 96 was to begin at the Michigan-Indiana state line cosigned with Interstate 94. Once at Benton Harbor, I-96 was to split from I-94, following current Interstate 196 all the way to Grand Rapids. Northward at Grand Rapids, Interstate 96 was to have turned onto its existing alignment toward Lansing and Detroit. Interstate 196 then was defined to include what is now I-96 between Muskegon and Grand Rapids. Changes were made in 19631 when I-96 and 196 west from Grand Rapids traded places. AASHTO approved the change on June 23, 1969.
The last section of Interstate 96 (between Eagle/Grand Ledge area and east of Howell) opened to traffic in 1962.3 This 59-mile stretch of freeway replaced former U.S. 16, which subsequently was decommissioned.
Interstate 96 through the Novi and Wixom areas opened to traffic in 1957. Along this stretch are the first two Single Point Urban Interchanges (SPUI) built in Michigan. Upgrades to the previous diamond interchanges at Beck and Wixom Roads (Exits 159 and 160) were needed after traffic demands overwhelmed both. Rising land costs and a lack of available right-of-way necessitated the need for a new approach to improving the exits. Work began in 2004 on the $27.438 million interchange project at Beck Road with construction of a wider overpass for Beck Road. Ramp construction at Exit 160 followed in 2005. A similar process upgraded the Wixom Road interchange.2
Within Detroit, Interstate 96 originally ended at Farmington along what later became Business Spur I-96 and is now Michigan 5 (Brighton-Farmington Expressway). The freeway defaulted onto Grand River Avenue (historic U.S. 16) just west of Middlebelt Road in Farmington Hills, with the portion leading southeast to the Jeffries Freeway at West Chicago never constructed.
As part of the Gateway Project to improve the connection between Interstate 75 and the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Interstate 96 was extended beyond its terminus at Interstate 75 to the bridge into Canada. $230-million in construction began on February 25, 2008 and was completed in July 2009. Accelerated work was the result of entire shutdowns along the final mile of I-96 and a portion of I-75 as a new roadway was built to the Ambassador Bridge approach.
Historic U.S. Routes
Interstate 96 wholesale replaced the alignment of U.S. 16 through Michigan. The route used to cross Lake Michigan via a ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon. It ran east to end in Downtown Detroit until 1962, when it was truncated west to Wisconsin.
Western Terminus - U.S. 31 - Muskegon, Michigan
Perspective from Interstate 96 west
The last westbound exit of Interstate 96 is that with Exit 1A for southbound U.S. 31. U.S. 31 is a freeway throughout the Muskegon community, with a business counterpart through downtown. Interstate 96 directly transitions into Business U.S. 31 northbound accordingly. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (2000).
An Interstate 96 ends shield assembly is posted at the western terminus. Michigan appears to be one of the only states to use Ends instead of End for its end shields. Note that the signage changed by 2008 to include the beginning of Business U.S. 31. Downtown Muskegon is six miles from the terminus. Photos taken by Bill Burmaster (10/18/08) and Dale Sanderson (2000).
Perspective from Business U.S. 31 south
Interstate 96 begins where Business U.S. 31 ends. This shield assembly shows transition shields at the U.S. 31/Exits 1A/B interchange. Traffic for Interstate 96 will reach Grand Rapids in 30 miles. Control points for the U.S. 31 freeway include Ludington to the north (61 miles) and Grand Haven to the south (seven miles). Traffic wishing to access Interstate 196 can take U.S. 31 29 miles to the south. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (2000).
Perspective from Interstate 96/Jeffries Freeway east
End Interstate 96 shield at the terminus with Interstate 75. The right-hand ramp takes traffic across a toll bridge into Windsor, Ontario. Meanwhile mainline traffic continues onto Interstate 75/Fisher Freeway southbound. The first photo clearly shows the Ambassador Bridge into Ontario, while the second photo shows the signs a bit more clearly. Photos taken by Dan Garnell (05/02 and 07/02).
Perspective from Interstate 75/Fisher Freeway north
Northbound Interstate 75/Fisher Freeway approaches Exit 48, Interstate 96 within the city limits of Detroit. The control cities featured include the state capital of Lansing for Interstate 96 westbound 86 miles to the west. Flint is featured for Interstate 75, although downtown Detroit still awaits northbound motorists. Photo taken by Jim Teresco and Rob Foulis (08/01/01).
Interstate 75 nears the westbound beginning of Interstate 96/Exit 48. At this interchange, Interstate 75 turns to the northeast and downtown Detroit. Interstate 96 branches off to the northwest before turning westward near milepost 187. Photo taken by Dan Garnell (08/02/02).
Perspective from Interstate 75/Fisher Freeway south
Now traveling south on Interstate 75, this set of overheads (both on the main lanes and collector distributor lanes) indicate that the connection to Interstate 96 west to Lansing is 0.75 miles away. This used to be the exit to old Tiger Stadium (Rosa Parks Boulevard). The collector distributor lanes come to this interchange from Michigan 10/Lodge Freeway. Photos taken by Frank Gillon (09/03/07).
The ramp to Interstate 96 is now one-half mile ahead. Note that the dual freeway configuration continues as we near Interstate 96. Photos taken by Frank Gillon (09/03/07).
This perspective from the collector distributor lanes advises of the lane allocation for the pending split between Interstate 75/Fisher Freeway south and Interstate 96/Jeffries Freeway west. Photo taken by Frank Gillon (09/03/07).
The two primary Interstate highways split at Exit 48. From here, Interstate 96 travels west to Lansing, and Interstate 75 continues south along the former U.S. 25 corridor toward Toledo, Ohio, and points south. On these signs, the cardinal directions west and south are omitted. Photos taken by Frank Gillon (09/03/07).
This split of Michigan 5 westbound from Grand River Avenue represents the historic westbound beginning of Interstate 96 from 1958 to 1977. In 1957, the Brighton-Farmington Freeway, known then as U.S. 16, opened to traffic from Farmington westward to U.S. 23 at Brighton. By 1962, U.S. 16 was truncated leaving Interstate 96 the freeway in a solo capacity. Grand River Avenue from the end of the freeway into Detroit was then christened Business Loop 96. Interstate 275 and the Jeffries Freeway opened to traffic in 1977, thus relocating Interstate 96 onto the alignment it follows today. 1 Photo taken by Dan Garnell (09/02).
A Business Loop 96 trailblazer is displayed in downtown Detroit in this undated photograph by Ron Wilbanks. Additionally a U.S. 10 trailblazer is also shown in the photograph (this route is now Michigan 10). While Interstate 96 was relocated in 1977, the orphaned Business Loop 96 and Farmington bypass were also redesignated. Michigan 102, which is presently found on 8 Mile Road, overtook the Interstate 96 freeway and Business Spur 96 westward to Interstate 275. Grand River Road (Business Spur 96) east of Michigan 102 became Michigan 5. Changes again came to these roadways in 1994 when Michigan 5 was extended westward to override Michigan 102 from 8 Mile to Interstate 275.1