Interstate 296

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Interstate 296 marker

Interstate 296
I-296 runs north–south parallel to the Grand River connecting I-96 in Walker with I-196 in Grand Rapids, Michigan
I-296 highlighted in red
Route information
Auxiliary route of I-96
Maintained by MDOT
Length: 3.393 mi[3] (5.461 km)
Existed: December 17, 1962[1] – present
History: Approval granted to remove signage on December 3, 1979[2]
Major junctions
South end: I-196 / US 131 in Grand Rapids
North end: I-96 / US 131 / M-37 in Walker
Counties: Kent
Highway system
M-294 M-311

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. For most of its length, the Interstate 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 I-296. The highway was first proposed in the late 1950s and opened in December 1962, but the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has since eliminated all signage for I-296 and removed the designation from their official state map. The designation is therefore unsigned, but still listed on the Interstate Highway System route log maintained by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Route description[edit]

I-296 begins at the I-196 interchange west of the Grand River and downtown Grand Rapids. For a short distance, the three northbound lanes are on the left and the three southbound lanes are on the right, contrary to the normal traffic arrangement in the US. This anomaly 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.[4][5] South of the Ann Street interchange, the highway crosses a line of the Grand Rapids Eastern Railroad.[3] After crossing both the railroad and Ann Street, the highway widens to allow for a grassy median. The freeway leaves Grand Rapids and enters Walker north of Ann Street.[4][5]

Approaching I-96 from the south, the freeway passes east of the DeltaPlex Arena, and it 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 occupies 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 to follow a bend in the Grand River.[4][5] Once I-296 diverges from US 131, the highway crosses a rail line owned by CSX Transportation and passes over West River Drive.[3] To the northwest of these crossings, exits emerge on the right for eastbound I-96 and the left for northbound M-37 (Alpine Avenue). Past these 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.[4][5]

Panorama of city showing the Grand River and the I-296/US 131 freeway
I-296/US 131 viewed from across the Grand River


Planning map for the Grand Rapids area freeways from 1955

The development of a freeway along the modern-day I-296/US 131 corridor was proposed in the 1950s. The 1955 General Location of National System of Interstate Highways, an early platform 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.[6] Designated as part of the Interstate Highway System in 1957, I-296's construction was funded by the federal government.[7][a]

The US 131 freeway was officially opened at 10 a.m. on December 17, 1962, between Pearl Street and (at the time) the 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.[1] (The I-96 and I-196 designations were later flipped west of Grand Rapids.[10]) 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.[11][12]

At the end of the 1970s, MDOT took part in a FHWA-backed initiative called the Positive Guidance Demonstration Project, and the two agencies audited signage practices in the vicinity of the I-96/M-37 and I-296/US 131 interchange in Walker. MDOT determined that usage of the I-296 designation was "a potential source of confusion for motorists."[13] FHWA agreed with the department's proposal to eliminate all signage and public map references to the designation in April 1979.[13] 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."[14] AASHTO approved the request on October 13.[15] On October 24 that year, MDOT also requested formal permission from the FHWA to remove all signage and map references to I-296. The FHWA granted permission on December 3, 1979, on the condition that MDOT would continue to use the designation on official documents. The approval explicitly retained the highway in the Interstate system for funding and other purposes.[2] The last state map to show the I-296 designation was published in 1979, as the 1980 map lacks any reference to the designation.[16][17] Other maps, like the one published by the Kent County Road Commission, occasionally show I-296,[18] and FHWA includes the designation in their Route Log and Finder List for the Interstate Highway System.[7]

Exit list[edit]

The entire highway is in Kent County.

Location mi[3] km Exit[4][b] Destinations Notes
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
0.815 1.312 87
Bus. US 131 south (Leonard Street)
Signed as Leonard Street only northbound
1.566 2.520 88 Ann Street
Walker 2.648 4.262 89 US 131 north – Cadillac Northern end of US 131 concurrency; I-296 designation continues along the ramps between I-96 and US 131
2.957 4.759 I-96 east / M-37 south – Lansing Northbound exit only
3.185 5.126 M-37 north (Alpine Avenue) Secondary left exit northbound for M-37 north (Alpine Avenue)
3.393 5.461 I-96 west – Muskegon Northbound exit and southbound entrance
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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 supported by the same allocation of funds.[8][9]
  2. ^ Most of I-296 is concurrent with US 131 and uses the exit numbers of the latter.


  1. ^ a b "Driver's Boon: Int. 296 Opening Finishes City Freeway, Links Kalamazoo, Muskegon". The Grand Rapids Press. December 17, 1962. p. A1. OCLC 9975013. 
  2. ^ a b Merchant, David A. (December 3, 1979). "Removal of I-296 Designation, Grand Rapids" (Letter). Letter to John P. Woodford. Lansing, MI: Federal Highway Administration. 
  3. ^ a b c d Michigan Department of Transportation & Michigan Center for Shared Solutions and Technology Partnerships (2009). MDOT Physical Reference Finder Application (Map). Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved April 9, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Michigan Department of Transportation (2013). Pure Michigan: State Transportation Map (Map). c. 1:221,760. Lansing: Michigan Department of Transportation. Grand Rapids inset. OCLC 42778335, 861227559. 
  5. ^ a b c d Google (December 22, 2009). "Overview Map of Unsigned I-296" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved December 22, 2009. 
  6. ^ Bureau of Public Roads (September 1955). "Grand Rapids" (Map). General Location of National System of Interstate Highways Including All Additional Routes at Urban Areas Designated in September 1955. Scale not given. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. p. 43. OCLC 4165975 – via Wikimedia Commons. 
  7. ^ a b Adderly, Kevin (January 15, 2014). "Table 2: Auxiliary Routes of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways as of December 31, 2013". Route Log and Finder List. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ United States Congress (1978). Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978. Pub.L. 99–599. 
  9. ^ Adderly, Kevin (January 15, 2014). "Expansion of Mileage". Route Log and Finder List. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  10. ^ "New Numbers Seen for Road". Holland Evening Sentinel. October 23, 1963. p. 4. OCLC 13440201. 
  11. ^ Michigan Department of State Highways & H.M. Gousha (1969). Michigan, Great Lake State: Official Highway Map (Map). c. 1:190,080. Lansing: Michigan Department of State Highways. Grand Rapids inset. OCLC 12701120. 
  12. ^ Michigan Department of State Highways (1970). Michigan, Great Lake State: Official Highway Map (Map). c. 1:190,080. Lansing: Michigan Department of State Highways. Grand Rapids inset. OCLC 12701120. 
  13. ^ a b Conner, Robert E. (April 11, 1979). "Removing I-296 Signs in Grand Rapids" (Letter). Letter to Donald E. Trull. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. 
  14. ^ 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" (Letter). Letter to Henrik E. Stafseth. Lansing, MI: Michigan Department of Transportation. 
  15. ^ Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering (October 13, 1979). "Route Numbering Committee Agenda Showing Action Taken by the Executive Committee" (PDF) (Report). Hartford, CT: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. p. 1. Retrieved August 2, 2014 – via Wikimedia Commons. 
  16. ^ Michigan Department of State Highways and Transportation (1979). Michigan, Great Lake State: Official Transportation Map (Map) (1978–79 ed.). c. 1:190,080. Lansing: Michigan Department of State Highways and Transportation. Grand Rapids inset. OCLC 12701177. 
  17. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation (1980). Michigan, Great Lake State: Official Transportation Map (Map) (1980–81 ed.). c. 1:190,080. Lansing: Michigan Department of Transportation. Grand Rapids inset. OCLC 12701177, 606211521. 
  18. ^ Kent County Road Commission & REGIS Agency (2008). Official Road Map (Map). 1:95,040. Grand Rapids, MI: Kent County Road Commission. T7N R12W S12. OCLC 277273068. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google

KML is from Wikidata
  • 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