I-296 highlighted in red
|Auxiliary route of I-96|
|Maintained by MDOT|
|Length:||3.43 mi (5.52 km)|
|Existed:||December 17, 1962 – present|
|History:||Approval granted to remove signage on December 3, 1979|
|South end:||I-196 / US 131 in Grand Rapids, MI|
|North end:||I-96 / US 131 / M-37 in Walker, MI|
Interstate 296 (I-296) is a part of the Interstate Highway System in the US state of Michigan. It is a state trunkline highway that runs for 3.43 miles (5.52 km) entirely within the Grand Rapids area. Its termini are I-96 on the north side of Grand Rapids in Walker and I-196 near downtown Grand Rapids. Almost the entire length is concurrent with U.S. Highway 131 (US 131), which continues as a freeway built to Interstate Highway standards north and south of the shorter Interstate. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has eliminated all signage for I-296 and removed the designation from their officially published state map. The designation is therefore unsigned, but still listed on the route log for the Interstate Highway System maintained by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
I-296 begins at the I-196 interchange west of the Grand River and downtown Grand Rapids. Here the three northbound lanes are on the left and the three southbound lanes are on the right, opposite of the normal traffic arrangement in the US. This arrangement is reversed north of the ramps for I-196 as the southbound lanes go over the northbound lanes. Running parallel to the Grand River on the west bank, the freeway designation begins across the river from the 6th Street Bridge Park and Belknap Hill north of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the DeVos Place Convention Center. The west side of the freeway faces residential neighborhoods and the east side borders commercial businesses and the river. South of the Ann Street interchange, the highway crosses a rail line. After crossing both the railroad and Ann Street, the highway widens to allow for a grassy median. The freeway leaves Grand Rapids an enters Walker north of Ann Street.
Approaching I-96 from the south, the freeway runs to the east of the DeltaPlex Arena and the median widens further across the river from Comstock Riverside Park in Walker. An extra lane is added on the left, widening the freeway to four lanes. Unsigned I-296 follows the left two lanes that form the left exit for I-96 from US 131. At the split between I-296 and US 131, I-296 curves northwest, and US 131 curves northeast following a bend in the Grand River. Once I-296 diverges from US 131, the highway crosses West River Drive and there are exits on the right for eastbound I-96 and the left for northbound M-37/Alpine Avenue. Past these two exits, I-296 merges into westbound I-96 and terminates. Southbound unsigned I-296 begins where the ramps to US 131 southbound split from eastbound I-96 at the Alpine Avenue overpass, merging with southbound US 131 north of Ann Street.
A freeway along the I-296/US 131 corridor was proposed in the 1950s. The 1955 Yellow Book, an early proposal for what would become the Interstate Highway System, contained an inset of the proposed freeways in and around the Grand Rapids area including a north–south freeway near the downtown area. Designated as part of the Interstate Highway System in 1957, I-296 construction was funded by the federal government.[a]
The US 131 freeway was opened at 10 a.m. on December 17, 1962 between Pearl Street and the then-I-196/US 16 freeway north of downtown. This freeway section encompassed all of I-296 which would connect I-196 north of town with I-96 downtown. (The I-96 and I-196 designations were later flipped west of Grand Rapids.) M-37 was relocated in Grand Rapids to utilize I-96 around the northeast side of town instead of I-296/US 131 in 1969.
At the end of the 1970s MDOT was participating in an initiative sponsored by the FHWA called the Positive Guidance Demonstration Project, and the two agencies were auditing signage practices in the vicinity of the I-96/M-37 and I-296/US 131 interchange in Walker as part of this program. MDOT determined that usage of the I-296 designation was "a potential source of confusion for motorists." FHWA agreed with the department's proposal to eliminate all signage and public map references to the designation in April 1979. MDOT then petitioned the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on June 22, 1979, for their permission to make the change, saying "it is felt that the I-296 designation serves no useful purpose other than to designate an Interstate routing." That following October 24, MDOT also requested formal permission from the FHWA to remove all signage and map references to I-296. Permission was granted by the FHWA on December 3, 1979, with a contingency. The agency required MDOT to continue to use the designation on official documents, and the approval explicitly retained the highway in the Interstate system for funding and other purposes. The last state map to show the I-296 designation was published in 1979, as the 1980 map lacks any reference to the designation. Other maps, like the one published by the Kent County Road Commission, occasionally show I-296.
The entire highway is in Kent County.
|Grand Rapids||0.000||0.000||86|| I-196 (G.R. Ford Freeway) – Lansing, Holland
US 131 south – Kalamazoo
|Signed as exits 86A (east) and 86B (west); southern end of unsigned I-296 concurrency on US 131|
BUS US 131 south (Leonard Street)
|Signed as Leonard Street only northbound|
|89|| I-96 / M-37 – Lansing, Muskegon
US 131 north – Cadillac
|Signed as exits 89A (east) and 89B (west) southbound
I-296 designation continues along the ramps between I-96 and US 131
|3.185||5.126||M-37 north (Alpine Avenue)||Secondary left exit northbound for M-37 north (Alpine Avenue)|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
- I-296 was constructed and included in the Interstate Highway System before 1978. The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978 provided that all Interstate construction authorized under previous amendments to the system would be funded by the federal government but additional highway mileage added under 23 U.S.C. § 103(c)(4)(A) would not be funded from the same highway fund.
- Most of I-296 is concurrent with US 131 and uses the exit numbers of the latter.
- "Driver's Boon: Int. 296 Opening Finishes City Freeway, Links Kalamazoo, Muskegon". The Grand Rapids Press. December 17, 1962. p. A1. OCLC 9975013.
- Merchant, David A. (December 3, 1979). "Removal of I-296 Designation, Grand Rapids". Federal Highway Administration.
- DeSimone, Tony (October 31, 2002). "Table 2: Auxiliary Routes of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System Of Interstate and Defense Highways as of October 31, 2002". Route Log and Finder List. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
- Michigan Department of Transportation (2007). Official Department of Transportation Map (Map). 1 in.:3.5 mi/1 cm.:2 km. Grand Rapids inset.
- Google Inc. Google Maps – Overview Map of Unsigned I-296 (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. //maps.google.com/maps?saddr=US-131+N&daddr=Unknown+road&hl=en&sll=42.974935,-85.679154&sspn=0.015134,0.01457&geocode=FWC4jwIdkqfk-g%3BFXJikAId6Yvk-g&oq=Walker&mra=ls&t=h&z=14. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
- Bureau of Public Roads (September 1955). "Grand Rapids". General Location of National System of Interstate Highways Including All Additional Routes at Urban Areas Designated in September 1955 (Yellow Book) (Map). p. 43. OCLC 4165975. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grand_Rapids,_Michigan_1955_Yellow_Book.jpg.
- United States Congress. (1978) Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978. Pub.L. 99–599.
- DeSimone, Tony (June 4, 2012). "Expansion of Mileage". Route Log and Finder List. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
- "Would Shift Route Number: Mackie Seeks Int. 96 Designations for Grand Rapids–Muskegon Stretch". The Grand Rapids Press. May 1, 1963. p. 31. OCLC 9975013.
- Michigan Department of State Highways (1969). Official Highway Map (Map). Cartography by H.M. Gousha. Grand Rapids inset.
- Michigan Department of State Highways (1970). Official Highway Map (Map). Grand Rapids inset.
- Conner, Robert E. (April 11, 1979). "Removing I-296 Signs in Grand Rapids". Federal Highway Administration.
- Woodford, John P. (June 22, 1979). "Request for Official AASHTO Approval to Remove I-296 Route Designation from All References While Retaining the Route as Part of the Interstate System". Michigan Department of Transportation.
- Michigan Department of State Highways and Transportation (1979). Official Transportation Map (Map) (1978–79 ed.). Grand Rapids inset.
- Michigan Department of Transportation (1980). Official Transportation Map (Map) (1980-81 ed.). Grand Rapids inset.
- Kent County Road Commission (2008). Official Road Map (Map). Section 12, T7N R12W.
- Michigan Department of Transportation (2009). MDOT Physical Reference Finder Application (Map). Cartography by Michigan Center for Geographic Information. http://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/prfinder/. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
- I-296 at Michigan Highways
- I-296 at Interstate Guide—Photos of termini and scan of 1970s Michigan map before the freeway designation was "hidden"
- I-296 at kurumi.com