I was a prisoner of I-96

While I know emergency responders had their hands full Tuesday night with the overturned semi and hazmat cleanup on I-96, how difficult would have been to have someone or something posted at the Exit 137/D-19 entrance to the freeway, directing eastbounders off and keeping anyone else from getting on?

Keep in mind, there is no other way on or off the eastbound freeway from that point on until the scene of the accident.

One of my kid’s good friends fromBrighton spent the afternoon at our house. His mom dropped him off and I was driving him home. After feeding the two boys dinner, we hung about a bit before embarking for Brighton at a little after 8 p.m.

I knew the accident happened at 1 p.m. because my kid’s friend’s mom called to tell me about it shortly after it happened. But when I began my journey to take the boy home to Brighton, I had no idea traffic was still tied up. Things at the Exit 137/D-19 entrance onto I-96 were normal and clear, and, for the first mile or so of my trip, traffic was moving normally. There were no warning signs, no cop cars signaling trouble up ahead, nothing. For a bit, I drove in peaceful, ignorant bliss,

Then, well on my way, I noticed the red brake lights up ahead.

Then, traffic stopped.

“Oh, no,” I thought to myself. “I wonder if they’re still working the accident?”

I dialed in WHMI-93.5. Sure enough, clean-up efforts were ongoing and we were wedged in a huge traffic jam. We inched ever so slowly forward. Some people were driving in reverse along the shoulder to get off the freeway. There were state police cars posted at the turnarounds to prevent people from turning around.

What could I do?

I phoned the parents of my kid’s friend and explained what I had done.

“I never would have gotten on the freeway if I thought the accident was still ongoing,” I said. The dad suggested other routes we could travel, but without the ability to turn around, we were hopelessly stuck.

The two boys in my back seat yakked incessantly, commenting on people cutting in and out of lanes and people in other vehicles who were smoking or talking on their cell phones. A random-fact competition waged. I passed the time trying to listen to a great NPR story about a newly discovered artist, and jumping over to WHMI and shushing the kids so I could hear the traffic updates.

“Traffic is backed up at least as far as I can see from the studio,” the WHMI disc jockey said.

We waited patiently and crept forward ever so slowly as time ticked, ticked, ticked by. After what felt like an eternity, we finally found ourselves off the freeway. I gave thanks I began my trip from Howell to Brighton with a full tank of gas.

After dropping my kid’s friend safely at home, I clocked the length of the backup I had been in as we headed home about nine hours after the accident happened. The backup was at three miles and counting, according to my odometer, and still moving ever so slowly.

If only someone would’ve thought about using the D-19/Exit 137 interchange to route east-bounders off and keep people from entering the freeway.

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