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Upgrade of U.S. 71 to I-49 coming to Missouri soon

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Map courtesy Missouri Department of Transportation Local projects along the U.S. 71 corridor are now funded, due to changes in the Arkansas budget.
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission has approved highway construction resulting in the upgrading of the U.S. 71 corridor between Kansas City and Joplin to interstate standards by the end of 2012, moving this portion of the project ahead on the calendar.

The original intent was to fund a four-lane bypass of Bella Vista, Ark., creating an interstate from Joplin to Fort Smith, Ark. However, recent correspondence from the Arkansas State Highway Commission indicates that due to funding shortfalls it intends to construct a two-lane Bella Vista bypass in phases over six years.

Since a two-lane bypass would not be compatible with interstate standards, the MHTC was compelled to shift its priorities on US 71.

"We need to capitalize on the opportunity to bring I-49 to Missouri between Kansas City and Joplin," said Rudy Farber, Commission Chairman, "but still work with Arkansas toward progress on the Bella Vista Bypass."

Promoters continue to tirelessly pursue the effort, which has now spanned more than two decades -- to make the I-49 upgrade a reality in hopes of paving a brighter future for towns along the corridor, like Nevada, and finally, the funding appears to be in place for the Vernon, Bates and Cass County portions of the project.

Vernon County, said MoDOT Southwest District Community Relations Manager Lori Marble, "is getting the lion's share" of the construction slated to begin in 2011, with projects in other areas along the corridor to take place before and after those in Vernon County.

The Missouri Department of Transportation expects five Vernon County projects, two south of Nevada and three north of Nevada to begin in 2011. Marble said bids on those projects, including an interchanges at route DD, Route E, Route M, Route D and TT, will be requested this fall, with work to begin on each of them some time next summer.

To the south of Vernon County, work in Barton County is under way, with some projects complete or nearing completion and two projects are slated to begin in 2011.

To the north, a new interchange at 52 should be completed some time in September, Marble estimated, and three additional projects in Cass County are slated to begin in 2012.

Conceptually, the I-49 effort has met with little strong resistance over the years. In some cases, residents near the highway worry about access if at-grade crossings are eliminated; and farmers worry about transporting equipment they can now move at slow speeds along U.S. 71.

Throughout the years, several public meetings about the upgrade have been conducted in the area, the most recent of which took place in Rich Hill in April, when it was determined an interchange would be constructed at D Highway and U.S. 71.

Most of the design work has been completed on these projects and Marble said they should be able to move ahead quickly now that funding is in place for them.

"Improving US 71 between I-435 in Kansas City and I-44 near Joplin enhances economic development opportunities and freight movement," said Missouri Department of Transportation Interim Director Kevin Keith. "We are excited about getting closer to an I-49 designation in Missouri."

Once improvements between Kansas City and Joplin are complete, any remaining funds will be used to begin construction of the Bella Vista Bypass in coordination with Arkansas.

To the south, large portions of the Interstate have been constructed in parts of Louisiana and Arkansas. Mary Hickerson, then Arkansas highway commission chairman, told reporters at a meeting in Rogers, Ark., in October 2007, "It just brings about economic development, there's no doubt about it."

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Ok, I'll admit I don't know that much about highways. Can someone tell me how changing the name of 71 to I49 is going to bring economic development? I'm at a loss.

-- Posted by truthseeker67 on Sat, Aug 7, 2010, at 9:29 AM

I have wondered the same thing for a long time.

-- Posted by Leland Gaunt on Sat, Aug 7, 2010, at 10:06 AM

Any increased traffic will be thru traffic. It will bypass Nevada. That is why they built the bypass. That is one of the requirements to be an interstate. You must have bypasses to speed traffic.

-- Posted by Leland Gaunt on Sat, Aug 7, 2010, at 11:55 AM

It is difficult to predict the amount of traffic this may generate due to the fact it is not the complete interstate yet. Other states have to follow Missouris lead. Is it a great opportunity? Yes. However, since it is a Interstate, the traffic may be using it to get somewhere without having to stop. That is the point of an Interstate, to move traffic in a fast motion without interuption. Once again, however, this traffic does need to stop and buy petro, food, lodging, etc. All of these purchases add revenue to the City by means of sales tax. This will help us, and I would be interested to see a study by the City on the impact of the Interstate after its first year in operation.

Also, we may even have a few people move to town because they drove through and stopped, finding out more about Nevada. Is that going to happen daily? No, but it will happen.

Last, with it being an Interstate, large business may find Nevada even more appealing because of the ability to transport materials and merchandise easier. Could it happen? Yes.

In short, there are several benefits that may arise from this Interstate. Is anything promised? No, but it is a very real possibility that Nevada could reap some outstanding benefits.

-- Posted by ThomasPaine on Sun, Aug 8, 2010, at 11:16 AM

toll booths will be next

-- Posted by bouser on Sun, Aug 8, 2010, at 1:26 PM

I would like to see a study that shows that any other little podunk city profited from suddenly being on an interstate.

-- Posted by Leland Gaunt on Sun, Aug 8, 2010, at 2:15 PM

Nevada having the police go around, like yesterday, and hassling yard sales will not enhance it's reputation.

-- Posted by Leland Gaunt on Sun, Aug 8, 2010, at 2:16 PM

Leland, if someone gave you a $100 bill, I believe you would accuse them of passing you germs...

-- Posted by Samclemens on Mon, Aug 9, 2010, at 10:12 AM

You tell em, Leland! I for one believe we were much better off with steam locomotives and the good old horse and buggy. Why do all these young whippersnappers think they have to move more than 15 MPH anyways? If it was good enough for great-grandpa, it's good enough for me. They're not dragging me into the 20th century, by crackey!

-- Posted by Samclemens on Mon, Aug 9, 2010, at 10:16 AM

Samclemens, I have hunted for several years for a study that showed any benefits when a highway became an interstate. I found several that showed the opposite, small towns getting smaller. One of those was done by the state of Missouri. One by the state of North Carolina. Show me something different, instead of propaganda.

-- Posted by Leland Gaunt on Mon, Aug 9, 2010, at 1:25 PM

I can see this both ways.

First, having 71 renamed I-49 between just Joplin and KC would bring minimal, if ANY, extra traffic by Nevada. Afterall, it's still a 4-lane highway, same speed limit, but with the small benefit of some new interchanges.

However, once 71 is upgraded to ALL 4-lane through Arkansas and upgraded to I-49, I can see this becoming a more predominant north/south transportation and trade route. It would be a prime route for anything heading north from Lousiana and eastern Texas and vice versa. Afterall, ports in LA and TX are some of the busiest in the nation... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_por...

I sincerely hope our city will eventually benefit from this upgrade.

One final curious thought... I wonder why it's not going to be called I-29 instead of I-49? I-29 and 71 are practically the same road almost all the way from KC to Canada. I just found that interesting.

-- Posted by willybishop on Mon, Aug 9, 2010, at 7:57 PM

It probably would also send some of the drug trade that now uses I-44.

-- Posted by TerryB on Mon, Aug 9, 2010, at 9:59 PM

I apologize for jumping in so late in the discussion. In response to the question - why I-49 and not I-29: Congress designated the I-49 corridor from Kansas City to Shreveport, La., in federal transportation legislation, and the corridor will connect to existing I-49 between Shreveport and Lafayette in Louisiana.

Plus, I-49 fits within the Interstate naming practice of north/south interstates using odd numbers, with the numbers growing higher as they move from west to east. In Missouri, I-49 falls

between existing I-35 in Kansas and Oklahoma and I-55 in eastern Missouri and Illinois.

-- Posted by SouthwestMoDOT on Thu, Aug 12, 2010, at 9:22 AM

I to thank you for the information and wonder the same thing doom does. With traffic increase is the semi traffic expected to increase? Also can we expect turn pike toll roads like in Oklahoma?

-- Posted by truthseeker67 on Thu, Aug 12, 2010, at 3:12 PM

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