IM MIIIIIIIMIIII• MM.= - - - - - -
years of twists,
turns and dead
1496 has had a
This project was coordinated
and edited by Kimberly Lif-
ton. Art was directed and
designed by Deb Branner.
1 9 5 5 - 1 9 8 9
ormer Huntington Woods City
Councilman Sidney Alexander
Jr. describes Irving Rubin as
the state highway depart-
ment's point man. Veteran
Southfield City Clerk Patrick
Flannery says Rubin "could
sell ice cubes to the Eskimos."
This is how a few veterans
of the protracted battles over
Interstate 696 recall a man
who, from 1957 until
mid-1965, was in the limelight
during countless public
Rubin was executive assis-
tant to Michigan Highway
Commissioner John Mackie
and was given the assign-
ment to expedite freeway con-
struction. Four years earlier, in 1953, a local
study had suggested a need for an east-west
corridor north of the under-construction Edsel
Ford Expressway. Then in 1955, the federal
highway department echoed local sentiments
in President Dwight D. Eisenhower's proposed
Interstate highway network.
The state highway department took a
radical step in 1957. At the dedication of the
Ford-Lodge interchange north of downtown
Detroit, officials announced a 10-year
freeway construction program for the entire
"It was the first time the highway
department had ever stuck its neck out like
this," recalls Rubin, now manager of na-
tional community presence programs for
Ford Motor Co. "We presented a complete
timetable so that people and communities
would understand we were building a total
which the Jewish community became a fac-
tor in freeway location at that time," Rubin
says, adding there was some talk about the
extension of the Lodge through northwest
Detroit and "protracted discussion" with
leaders at Congregation Shaarey
Zedek who sought a Lodge Freeway
exit to the new synagogue building at
Bell Road and 11 Mile.
"The people at Shaarey Zedek fi-
nally became convinced that our
refusal to put that exit in made sense
for safety reasons. We also had discus-
sions with the synagogue over
freeway right of way," Rubin says.
"But eventually no synagogue prop-
erty was required. You have to re-
member that there was very little
ONE OF MANY
development in the area at the time."
Mandell (Bill) Berman, a past presi-
dent of- Shaarey Zedek and chairman of
the building committee, recalls those discus-
sions sometime in 1959 or 1960.
"The freeway wasn't in place yet and we
really didn't understand what was going on;'
Berman says. "The exit was a peripheral
issue. Our big job was building the
new synagogue and paying for it."
Shaarey Zedek bought the Bell
Road site in 1957 and the building
opened in 1962.
After the murder of Rabbi Morris
Adler in 1966, Louis Berry had
discussions with Gov. George Romney
and the freeway section in front of the
synagogue was re-named in Rabbi
1-696 remained a footnote in the
highway department's plans until
Rubin began meeting with Southfield
city officials to discuss the extension
of the Lodge and Southfield ex-
pressways. When officials viewed
plans of the proposed Lodge-
Telegraph interchange, they noticed
a freeway spur — for 1-696.
"Southfield officials wouldn't agree
to anything until they knew where
696 was going;' Rubin says. "We said
we could show them our plans through the
city up to a half-mile east of Greenfield, but
after that we could not guess what the cities
to the east would do."
Announced at the time were the
Southfield Freeway, extension of the Lodge
from Wyoming northwestward along James
Cousens, the Chrysler and Fisher freeways,
the Jeffries, extension of the Ford nor-
theastward beyond the Detroit city limits
and completion of the Ford in western
Michigan as part of the link to Chicago.
Barely mentioned' was the northern east-
west connector, to become known as 1-696.
Michigan law at the time required local
approval before the state could build any
kind of highway. Commissioner Mackie
gave Rubin the task of conducting the
negotiations with Detroit area cities and
The proposed route ran along 10 1/2 Mile
county road commissions to move the mas- Road.
sive state plan forward.
The Southfield City Commission approved
"There were not that many points at the proposal — for about a week.
1.696 was approved after
initiated the National
Interstate highway system.
In Michigan, this
The first 8.8•mile western
translated to 1.94, I•75 and /1•1..,y_e.
section of 1.696 opened.
TIMELINE " " " " "
The Point Man
ILANA BEN ZE'EV, 32,
attorney, with son,
Jonathan, 3 months: "I'm
an attorney in downtown
Detroit and it will be faster
to get downtown. My
husband is an engineer in
Farmington Hills, so he will
just zip to work."
John F. Kennedy