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 freeway along U.S. 127. 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 Exit 180 (Outer Drive) and Exit 186 B (Davison Street). Beyond the three-wye interchange with M-8, I-96 curves southeast along the Jeffries Freeway to meet I-94 and Interstate 75 (Fisher Freeway) before ending at the ramps to the Ambassador Bridge linking Michigan with Windsor, Ontario.
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.
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 I-196 west from Grand Rapids traded places. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (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 long 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