Call them business loops or 'green interstates' an often overlooked segment of America's highway network are the Business Auxiliary routes of the Interstate Highway System. Using green shields and the words 'Business/Loop' or 'Business/Spur' rather than 'Interstate,' the routes are intended to direct travelers off the expressways and into towns for food, services, shopping, business needs and accommodations.

However, the Business Loops are not used by every state, and one in particular in Michigan, does something unique to the entire interstate highway system.

Interstate 196 runs from Grand Rapids to near Benton Harbor on Michigan's west shore paralleling Lake Michigan. It is first rare for its length. Generally three-digit interstate (3di) routes are relatively short routes providing access into or through a metropolitan area. Interstate 196 stands out for being one of the longest auxiliary routes on the interstate system. At 80 miles, only 7 3di's are longer.

READ MORE: The Curious Case of Michigan's 'Fat Diamond' Road Signs

And unlike any other 3di, there are multiple business loops. A business route of a spur or loop interstate seems redundant as these interstates are meant to facilitate travel like this but there are a few around the country. Business I-376 in the Pittsburgh area serves that city's airport while Interstate 526 in Charleston, South Carolina has a short business spur.

I-196 in Michigan has three business routes, more than any other in the country. There are business routes serving both South Haven and Holland as well as a business spur in the Grand Rapids area. The Grand Rapids Business Spur was shortened within the last few years. Business I-196 once ran from the mainline highway at Chicago Drive in Wyoming to Hall Street in Grand Rapids.

Former Business 196 in Grand Rapids
Google Maps Street View

However the I-196 business loop was truncated at the Wyoming/Grand Rapids city limits so the loop is now a spur and runs from that highway interchange in Wyoming along Chicago Drive to Clyde Park Avenue, a length of just 2.4 miles. When the business loop did extend into Grand Rapids, it ran up what was then Grandville Street to Franklin.

The truncation of route was part of a larger swap between the Michigan Department of Transportation that also saw MDOT drop a US 131 Business Loop and rename Grandville and Franklin Streets for Caesar E. Chavez and Dr. Martin Luther King, respectively.

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Gallery Credit: Michigan Secretary of State via Michigan License Plates/Facebook

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