Interstate 696 (Walter P. Reuther Freeway) forms a northerly bypass of Detroit between I-96 at Novi and I-94 at St. Clair Shores. The freeway is mostly urban, traveling below grade from Southfield to Roseville and along a trenched freeway parallel to Eleven Mile Road between Evergreen Road (Exit 11) and Southfield Road (Exit 12). A cut and cover tunnel takes the route below parkland south of Lincoln Drive, where another trenched section leads I-696 to two additional cut and cover tunnels east of Greenfield Road (Exit 13).
A symmetrical stack interchange joins Interstate 696 with I-75 at the city of Ferndale. The freeway parallels 10 Mile Road both leading to and away from that exchange, before it shifts northward back to 11 Mile Road ahead of the four-level interchange with Mound Road. I-696 carries eight lanes from M-5 to M-10, six lanes from M-10 (Lodge Freeway) to Greenfield Road (Exit 13), eight lanes again from Exit 13 to M-3 (Gratiot Road) and six lanes to I-94 at St. Clair Shores.
The Michigan State Highway Department recommended Interstate Route Numbering in 1958 outlined that through routes in urban areas should follow the circumferential route. The consensus was that utilizing the circumferential route would relieve unnecessary traffic through the urban area, and that the circumferential routes would be ready for operation for a considerable length of time prior to the completion of the urban connecting routes. Within the Detroit area, what would become I-696 was assigned Interstate Route 98.
The American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) addressed the Michigan recommendations on August 29, 1958:
For the Detroit area we note that you have used 2-digit numbers that have not been assigned by the Route Numbering Committee and which are not available for metropolitan areas.
AASHO instead recommended that Route 98 be changed to 696. The state concurred with the recommendation on September 12, 1958 and AASHO gave final approval on Decemember 18, 1958.
Interstate 696 opened initially between I-96 and U.S. 24 in late 1963. Business Spur I-696 was designated the year before and decommissioned by 1970. The next portion of freeway opened was the stretch between I-75 and I-94 in 1979.1 Completion of the 28.2 mile long route took another ten years with an opening on December 14, 1989. Opening ceremonies were held by Michigan Governor Blanchard for the 9.1 mile section from U.S. 24 (Telegraph Road) east to Interstate 75.2
Detroit – 1976/77 Michigan Official Highway Map
Interstate 696 next opened between I-75 at Madison Heights and I-94 at Roseville in 1979. Until 1989, I-696 at Southfield defaulted onto the Governor John Lodge Freeway (U.S. 10).