GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The interchange project where I-96, I-196, and the East Beltline intersect took enough time, money, and innovation that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took a walking tour before the last barriers were removed.
The final piece of what the Michigan Department of Transportation calls “The Flip” falls into place with the opening of the ramp to carry traffic from I-96 eastbound to the East Beltline. The new ramp and bridge eliminates the need for drivers to dangerously cross three lanes of traffic to get to the Beltline exit.
It’s called “The Flip” because, before the reconfiguration, traffic on I-196 westbound went over I-96 eastbound on its way to downtown Grand Rapids. Now, I-196 westbound traffic goes under two new bridges that carry I-96 eastbound through-traffic and traffic using the exit to the East Beltline.
The innovative solution to the dangerous problem is the brainchild of Art Green, manager of MDOT’s Grand Rapids Transportation Service Center, which ironically is within walking distance of The Flip.
It was Green who gave Gov. Whitmer the walking tour.
The project was three years in the building stage, at an overall cost of $45 million. Completion of the job, originally scheduled for late July 2020, was delayed by several months by the discovery of unstable soil near the ramp bridge. It took until now—early November—for solutions to be found, designed, budgeted, and accomplished.
The bridges and pavement in the project boundaries were ready for replacement as it was. The new way to exit I-96 is a nice benefit.
The freeway pavement on I-196 between the new interchange and Fuller Avenue is also due for replacement. That project, which will result in the creation of three lanes of new pavement connecting The Flip with the famous Fix on I-196 (from 2010), gets underway in March 2021.