Michigan Highways: Since 1997.

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M-22 & M-109 junction route signage in Glen Arbor, Michigan
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Western Terminus:    BS I-94 on the east side of Kalamazoo (cnr King Hwy & BS I-94/Amvets Memorial Hwy)
Eastern Terminus:    I-69 at Exit 36 west of Marshall, at jct I-69 & BL I-94
Length: 33.387 miles
Maps: Route Map of M-96
Notes: One of the many changes occurring as part of the short-lived Rationalization process in the late-1990s was the addition of more than 50 miles of formerly county roads and city streets in Calhoun Co into the state highway system. The actual transfers took place October 31, 1998, but it was not until 2000 that the various realignments and new routings in and around Battle Creek were signed. In Battle Creek, the routing of M-96 was changed to encompass some of the newly-transferred highways, being nearly doubled in length, continuing easterly from its former terminus concurrently with BL I-94 via Dickman Rd, then joining the newly-rerouted M-37 via Helmer Rd southerly from Dickman to Columbia Ave, where M-37 turns west. There, the new extension of M-96 turns easterly via Columbia Ave and travels across the city of Battle Creek to BL I-94/E Michigan Ave, running concurrently with that route to I-94 (at Exit 104). Then M-96 continues by itself to I-69 at Marshall. Ironically, Columbia Ave was originally constructed as a state highway in 1935 and 1940 as a US-12 southern bypass of Battle Creek, and was in use as a state trunkline until US-12 was transferred onto the new I-94/US-12 freeway in 1959. In addition, the portion of Michigan Ave between I-94 (at Exit 104) and I-69 (at Exit 36) was also originally part of US-12. Prior to the recent change, which resulted in a net gain of 17.77 miles, M-96 was 19.00 miles long.
  M-96 owes a debt of gratitude to the existence of I-94, for most of today's M-96 follows portions of highways which were superceeded by the I-94 freeway, namely US-12.
  In "State Trunkline Needs, 1960–1980," a set of maps prepared by the State Highway Dept's Office of Planning, Programming Division in 1960 showing possible additions, upgrades and improvements to the state trunkline system over the ensuing twenty years, MSHD staff recommended the following changes to the route of M-96 during that timeframe:
  • Rerouting of M-96 with two-way traffic through downtown Battle Creek. From the east, M-96 would enter downtown Battle Creek via E Michigan Ave to M-78/Division St, then follow M-78/Division St northerly to existing M-96 at Van Buren St, then westerly via Van Buren back to Michigan Ave at Hubbard St. This plan was implemented, in part, with wbd M-96 traffic utilizing Van Buren St, but in the end, ebd M-96 traffic was moved to parallel Van Buren St.
  • Conversion of the portions of M-96 from the Battle Creek west city limit then westerly along Michigan Ave into Kalamazoo Co line, and from the Galesburg west city limit at 35th St westerly along Michigan Ave to jct BUS US-12 (present-day BL I-94) at the cnr of Kings Hwy & Amvets Memorial Pkwy on the eastern edge of Kalamazoo. Neither of these divided highway conversions was ever eventually put into effect.
History: 1926–27 – While the new U.S. Highway designations are agreed upon in late-1926, it will not be until 1927 that actual route changes will be implemented in the field. The route of M-17 east of Battle Creek and west of Galesburg becomes part of the new US-12 route, while US-12 is designated along what is locally known as "the Camp Custer route." The Battle Creek–Augusta–Galesburg segment is the only portion of former M-17 west of Ann Arbor not to be incorporated into the new route of US-12 and is, instead, given the brand-new M-96 route designation.
  1927 (May 3) – Temporary route markers bearing the M-96 designation are erected covering the existing M-17 signs from Battle Creek northwesterly through Urbandale, then southwesterly via Augusta to Galesburg. (Permanent route markers will be fabricated and installed over the coming weeks and months.) The new M-96 begins at the cnr of E Michigan Ave & James St in eastern Battle Creek (where US-12 turns southerly from E Michigan via James) and continues through downtown via Michigan Ave and westerly through the Urbandale and Level Park neighborhoods to the Kalamazoo Co line, where it then turns southwesterly via Augusta Dr through Augusta, terminating at US-12/Michigan Ave in downtown Galesburg. The first 4½ miles of M-96 is also concurrently designated with M-37 as well.
  1936 (Oct 15) – Approval is given for state trunkline route changes in downtown Battle Creek. First, the concurrent M-37 routing with M-96 is scaled back from ending (with M-96) at US-12 at James St & Michigan Ave to end at M-78/Capital Ave. Second, a brand-new US-12A designation is routed through downtown Battle Creek, joining M-96/M-37 from Angell St easterly, continuing with M-96 past M-78/Capital Ave to end at US-12, along with M-96, at US-12 east of downtown.
  1937 (Mar 10, Aug 30) – The new US-12 southerly bypass of western part of the city of Battle Creek—part of the "Battle Creek Beltline" project—is completed and officially designated on Mar 10. The primary effect on M-96 is the removal of the US-12A concurrency from Michigan Ave west of downtown between Angell St and M-78/Capital Ave. US-12A remains concurrent with M-96 along E Michigan Ave from M-78/Capital Ave easterly to US-12 at James St. The official establishments and jurisdictional transfers occur on Aug 30, however.
  1939 – The US-12A designation through downtown via M-78 & M-96 may have been "decommissioned" with the State Highway Dept removing the "US-12A" route markers from the overlapping segments of M-78 and M-96, although this has not been verified. Regardless, M-96 retains its designation along E Michigan Ave.
  1940 (Oct 30) – The remainder of the "Battle Creek Beltline" project is completed southeast of downtown, connecting the existing portion of the bypass at M-78/Capital Ave with the existing route of US-12 along E Michigan Ave east of the city near Raymond Rd. The former route of US-12 along E Michigan Ave from James St easterly to the new beltline is designated as an easterly extension of M-96 and as BUS US-12, the latter of which is extended into downtown Battle Creek along the former route of US-12A (along M-96), then southerly along M-78/Capital Ave back to US-12 south of downtown. Additionally, the M-37 designation is removed from the concurrent portion with M-96 along W Michigan Ave between Bedford Rd in Urbandale and M-78/Capital Ave in downtown Battle Creek.
  1940 (Nov 12) – The State Highway Dept completes a 2.634-mile long, four-lane divided highway across much of Fort Custer west of Battle Creek for the U.S. Army—from Evergreen Rd on the east boundary of the installation westerly to 0.44 miles west of the Calhoun/Kalamazoo Co line. Construction on the highway, the first in the nation under a national defense program through the War Dept, began in late September and was completed in half the time it would've taken a similar project under normal circumstances. The $220,000 project runs generally along the earlier (1927–1937) alignment of US-12 (Custer Dr) through Fort Custer, but consists completely of new construction. The new highway is named Dickman Rd, becomes part of a proposed "US-12A" route in the Battle Creek area, and figures prominently into the future of M-96. On the same day it opens, the segment is also officially established as a state trunkline highway route.
  1941 (July 1) – The first segment of proposed "US-12A" or Fort Custer Dr (present-day Dickman Rd) from the east boundary of Fort Custer west of Battle Creek easterly toward Helmer Rd is officially established as a state trunkline highway route, although it is still under construction at this time. Simultaneously, an additional 1.49-mile segment of Dickman Rd, also part of proposed "US-12A," west of Fort Custer leading toward Augusta in eastern Kalamazoo Co is also established as a state trunkline route.
  1942 (July 22) – State Highway Dept officials announce the new Fort Custer Dr (present-day Dickman Rd) in Battle Creek from Upton Ave westerly to the Fort Custer boundary and known as Dickman Rd within the Fort itself, is no longer proposed to become US-12A. Despite having been constructed by the State Highway Dept, the route will not be treated as a "regular" state trunkline highway—at this time.
  1942 (Aug–Sept) – Fort Custer Dr (present-day Dickman Rd) in Battle Creek east of the Fort itself is completed and opened to traffic, first as a four-lane divided highway from the eastern fort boundary to Helmer Rd in August, and then as a two-lane unvided highway on four-lane right-of-way (for future planned expansion) between Helmer Rd and 20th St in September.
  1952 (Nov 10) – The 5.56 miles of Dickman Rd from Fort Custer Dr just east of Augusta in eastern Kalamazoo Co easterly through Fort Custer to Helmer Rd west of Battle Creek which had been proposed as "US-12A" in the early 1940s and constructed as by the State Highway Dept for the U.S. military during the opening days of World War II but then never integrated into any normal state trunkline route, are cancelled as a state trunkline highway and turned back to local control. In less than twenty years, however, this entire segment of highway would be back in state control as part of M-96...
  1955 (Jan 26) – The final segment of the US-12 Galesburg–Comstock bypass in central Kalamazoo Co is completed and opened to traffic, with US-12 mainline traffic now directed westerly from the intersection of Michigan Ave & 40th St southeast of Galesburg westerly to the south of Morrow Lake, then swinging back to the north southwest of Comstock to meet existing US-12/King Hwy on the eastern limits of Kalamazoo. While the former US-12 along Michigan Ave between the eastern end of the new bypass into Galesburg remains an unsigned state trunkline highway route for the time being, the remainder of the former US-12/Michigan Ave route between M-96 in downtown Galesburg westerly through Comstock to the western end of the new bypass on the east edge of Kalamazoo becomes a westerly extension of M-96. The route of M-96 is lengthened by exactly 7.0 miles.
  1957 (Oct 1, 10:00 am) – The City of Battle Creek, in conjunction with the State Highway Dept, inaugurates a one-way system for M-96 through the downtown area. From the east, M-96 ebd traffic along W Michigan Ave turns southerly via Thorne St for one block to Jackson St, then runs easterly along Jackson St through downtown to Main St where M-96 ebd transitions to Green St easterly to Pittee St, then continues northerly via Pittee St for one block back to existing M-96/E Michigan Ave. Existing M-96 along Michigan Ave from Pittee St westerly through downtown to Thorne St is converted to one-way westbound traffic. Westbound truck traffic is also now redirected off Michigan Ave at Pittee St northerly one block to State St, then westerly via State St through downtown, merging back into M-96 wbd/W Michigan Ave at Carlyle St. For now, ebd M-96 along Thorne, Jackson, Green and Pittee is signed along city-maintained streets, pending a possible future transfer of control to the state. (The route of ebd BUS US-12 is also altered to turn easterly off Capital Ave and run concurrently with the new ebd M-96 route along Jackson, Green and Pittee Sts back to the existing route at E Michigan Ave.)
  1958 (June 30) – In a bit of miscommunication by the City of Battle Creek, the State Highway Dept is caught unaware of the fact that the downtown one-way changes (which move ebd M-96 onto Thorne–Jackson–Green–Pittee, leaving wbd M-96 on Michigan Ave between Pittee and Thorne) are only a "six-month trial" and not a permanent change. With downtown merchants unhappy with the new westbound one-way traffic on Michigan Ave and campaigning for its restoration back to two-way traffic, the City is at odds with the State Highway Dept which contends the volume of trunkline traffic along the M-96 corridor through the city is too much to be handled by a two-way Michigan Ave through downtown. The City agrees to extend the "trial" period through June to finalize plans to create a new westbound one-way route for M-96 traffic. Approaching from the east, M-96 and BUS US-12 along E Michigan Ave now turns northerly via Elm St across the Battle Creek River to Van Buren St, then turns westerly to follow Van Buren St, now one-way westbound, through the majority of Battle Creek, merging back into existing M-96/W Michigan Ave immediately west of Limit St. (Wbd BUS US-12 turns off Van Buren St at M-78/Capital Ave to run southerly back to its existing route.)
  1959 (Dec 7) – A 12-mile segment of I-94/US-12 freeway is opened to traffic from the existing route of US-12/Michigan Ave east of Battle Creek near Ceresco (present-day Exit 104) westerly past Battle Creek (the "Battle Creek Southbelt") to the eastern end of the completed freeway on the Calhoun/Kalamazoo Co line at the Mercury Dr-Climax Rd interchange (present-day Exit 92). While the former route of US-12 along Columbia Ave through the Battle Creek area is turned back to local control on this date, the segment of former US-12 along E Michigan Ave from Columbia Ave easterly to the new freeway interchange (present-day Exit 104) becomes an easterly extension of M-96 and BUS US-12.
  1960 (Mar 17) – The various trunkline changes through downtown Battle Creek from 1957–58 are made "official" when several jurisdictional transfers take place. First, the 1.6 miles of Michigan Ave through downtown Battle Creek from Thorne St easterly to Pittee St is transferred from state to municipal control. The new 2.6-mile long westbound route for M-96 (and, in part, wbd BUS US-12) along Elm St from E Michigan Ave to Van Buren St and Van Buren St from Elm St to W Michigan Ave is transferred from municipal to state control, as is the 1.6-mile long ebd M-96 route: Thorne St from W Michigan Ave to Jackson St, Jackson St from Thorne easterly to Main St, Green St from Main St easterly to Pittee St, and Pittee St from Green northerly to E Michigan Ave. The net change in state trunkline mileage due to these changes is a gain of 2.6 miles.
  1960 (Dec) – The entirety of BUS US-12 at Battle Creek is redesignated as BL I-94. Simultaneously, the route of M-96 is scaled back to end at M-78/BL I-94/Capital Ave in downtown Battle Creek. The M-96 route markers are removed from route east of downtown Battle Creek, resulting in a new eastern terminus for M-96 at BL I-94/M-78/Capital Ave & Jackson St (ebd) and jct BL I-94 & M-78 at Capital Ave & Van Buren St (wbd).
  1961 – Just over twenty years after removing the concurrent M-37 designation, the route of M-96 from M-37 northwest of downtown Battle Creek into downtown is once again co-signed with M-37, much as it was 1927–1940.
  1962 (Jan 9) – As initially implemented in 1957, made permanent in 1958 and officially established in 1960, eastbound M-96 (and, now, also sbd M-37) traffic entering Battle Creek from the northwest via Michigan Ave has turned southerly via the short, narrow, one-block Thorne St to Jackson St, where it then continues southeasterly into the downtown area. On this date, the 0.148 miles of W Michigan Ave (Angell St to Thorne St) and Thorne St (W Michigan Ave to Jackson St) is transferred to municipal control, while the 0.173 miles of Angell St (W Michigan Ave to Jackson St) and Jackson St (Angell St to Thorne St) are transferred to state control and become the new ebd M-96/sbd M-37 routing.
  1966 (Jan 1) – Existing dual state highway route designations in the Battle Creek area are "simplified" by the State Highway Dept so that several segments of highway formerly bearing two or three routes now only bear one. The result is that the route of M-96 is scaled back to end at a new eastern terminus at M-89 west of Battle Creek just east of the Calhoun/Kalamazoo Co line. What had been formerly designated as M-89/M-96 along W Michigan Ave from M-37/Bedford Rd westerly becomes just M-89, while the concurrent M-37/M-96 along W Michigan Ave east of M-37/Bedford Rd and Angell St–Jackson St (ebd) and Van Buren St (wbd) now becomes just M-37. Approximately 7 miles is trimmed from the length of M-96.
  1971 (Nov 5) – The route of M-96 east of Augusta is redirected to use Dickman Rd through the Fort Custer and into the Battle Creek/Springfield area. Dickman Rd was built in stages by the State Highway Dept—first through the military installation itself as a four-lane divided highway immediately leading up to the U.S. involvement in World War II and then leading away from Fort Custer both to the east and west during the War itself. The highway was built as a defense access project with funding from the War Dept. and was maintained as a an unsigned state trunkline highway until 1952 when it was turned back to local control. The portion of Dickman Rd from just east of Fort Custer into Battle Creek was transferred to state control in November 1964 as part of a new BL I-94 routing into the city from the west, which also involved constructing Skyline Dr/Martin Luther King Jr Hwy to connect Dickman Rd with Columbia Ave. The segment of Dickman Rd between Augusta and BL I-94 in Springfield transferred (back) to state control is 5.32 miles in length, while the 3.36 mile long former route of M-96 from Augusta northeasterly to M-89 at the Kalamazoo/Calhoun Co line is transferred to county and village control. New M-96 signs along the Dickman Rd route are posted the week of Nov 5, while the markers along the former route are taken down. The State Highway Commission had approved the change on Sept 22, while the State Administrative Board gave its own concurrence on Oct 5.
  1998 (Oct 31) – The route of M-96 is extended easterly from its eastern terminus in Springfield via BL I-94/Dickman Rd to Helmer Rd, which is newly-designated as M-37, then southerly with M-37 via Helmer Rd to Columbia Ave, where M-37 turns westerly and M-96 turns easterly to follow Columbia Ave across Battle Creek to BL I-94/E Michigan Ave east of downtown. From there, M-96 continues concurrently with BL I-94/Michigan Ave to I-94 at Exit 104 (where BL I-94 ends) and continues solo via Michigan Ave to Marshall, where it now terminates at I-69/US-27 at Exit 36.
  2000 – Two years after being extended, MDOT finally lets contracts to sign the M-96 extension as well as the many other realigned and newly-created state trunkline routes in and around Battle Creek
  2005 (May 4) – When the 2.3 miles of M-37 along Columbia Ave between Helmer Rd & BL I-94/Skyline Dr-Martin Luther King Jr Blvd in southwestern Battle Creek is transferred back to local control, the concurrent M-37/M-96 along Helmer Rd between Columbia and Dickman becomes just M-96; the former BL I-94/M-37/M-96 segment of Dickman Rd between the two Helmer Rd intersections reverts to just BL I-94/M-96; and the segment of Dickman Rd formerly signed as BL I-94/M-96 from Helmer Rd west to Skyline Dr/MLKing Jr Hwy becomes BL I-94/M-37/M-96.
  2015 (June 24) – When a portion of BL I-94/M-37 along Skyline Dr/Martin Luther King Jr Hwy on the west side of Battle Creek is permanently closed to traffic between Hill Brady Rd and M-96/Dickman Rd to accommodate expanding munitions storage at the adjacent Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, the route of M-96 sees additional concurrent route changes. From the (former) intersection of Dickman Rd & Skyline/MLKing easterly to Helmer Rd NORTH, BL I-94/M-96 becomes just M-96. The former BL I-94/M-37/M-96 segment of Dickman Rd between the two Helmer Rd intersections becomes M-37/M-96, instead. Finally, the portion of M-96 along Helmer Rd between Columbia Ave and Dickman Rd becomes the triple concurrency of BL I-94/M-37/M-96. (This is the second time in 15 years that M-37 runs along Helmer Rd; previously it did so 1998–2005.)
Controlled Access: No portion of M-96 is freeway or expressway.
NHS: The portion of M-96 from Clark Rd in the Fort Custer area of western Battle Creek easterly to M-311/11 Mile Rd east of Battle Creek (near I-94 Exit 104) is on the National Highway System (NHS). (The portion of M-96 from Clark Rd to the former jct of BL I-94/M-37 (at cnr Dickman Rd & Skyline Dr-MLKing Jr Blvd) was added to the NHS in 2012 with the passage of the MAP-21 funding and authorization bill.)
Memorial Highway:  The following Memorial Highway designation has been officially assigned to part of M-96 by the Michigan Legislature:
  • Fort Custer Memorial Highway – "The portion of highway M-96 beginning at the intersection with business loop I-94 in the city of Kalamazoo and extending east to the village of Augusta..." From MDOT: "Fort Custer Training Center is a federally owned and state-operated Michigan Army National Guard training facility. It is one of the most heavily used Midwest training facilities and is used mainly for company level small arms and maintenance training. It is named after Civil War cavalry officer General George Armstrong Custer."
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