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.
Parallel 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.
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
Source: December 31, 2021 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
The designations of Interstates 96 and 196 were swapped west of Grand Rapids in 1963.1
Grand River Avenue, from the end of I-96 at Farmington southeast to U.S. 12 in Downtown Detroit, was posted as Business Spur I-96 from 1962 to 1977, when the Jeffries Freeway was completed.1
Within Detroit, Interstate 96 originally ended at Farmington along what later became Business Spur I-96 and is now M-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 I-75 and the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Interstate 96 was extended beyond the end at I-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.
East End (Fisher Freeway) – Detroit, Michigan
East End Throwback
West End / Muskegon, Michigan
West End Throwback
The previous begin shield for I-96 stood ahead of Exit 1A for Grand Haven. Photo by Dale Sanderson (2000).
- Michigan Highways: Highways 90 through 99.
- “Road engineers plan new kind of interchange for I-96.” The Oakland Press, October 12, 2003.
- “Interstate roads have shaped the future for many mid-Michigan communities.” Lansing State Journal, July 23, 2006.
- Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project
http://www.michigan.gov/gateway. MDOT project web site.
Page updated October 8, 2018