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Highway leader says I-49 to help Vernon County

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

By James R. Campbell

Nevada Daily Mail

Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Chairman Rudolph "Rudy" Farber of Neosho says the Wednesday opening of Interstate 49 from Kansas City to Pineville will significantly benefit every county, including Vernon, along the 190-mile route.

"It's a wonderful improvement, good for safety, good for economic development and hopefully connecting all the way to Arkansas and the southern provinces in the future," Farber said in a Monday telephone interview. "It's another corridor for the movement of goods and people that has to be important for the entire region.

"From the safety standpoint, we all know that driving interstates is safer per-mile than non-interstate highways. When people see the interstate designation, they pretty well know what that stretch of road will be like."

Farber's commission oversees and sets policy for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

He said MoDOT's 25-year, $500 million effort to upgrade U.S. 71 to interstate status by building interchanges and overpasses, closing at-grade crossings and putting up signs "was a long time in the making, but it's very gratifying to see.

"There is not a lot of new interstate being built and unfortunately with the circumstances surrounding MoDOT funding, we're not likely to see much more in the way of new interstate here in Missouri," Farber said.

Asked if the opening of I-49 is the state's top highway-related accomplishment of 2012, he said MoDOT's completion of its $685 million Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program 14 months ahead of schedule "and well below budget" was comparable, referring to the department's drive, begun in 2008, to rebuild or replace 802 of the worst bridges in the state, including 135 in the 21 counties of MoDOT's Southwest District.

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