History will be made Dec. 12 in Joplin when Interstate 49 between Kansas City and Pineville in Missouri becomes official.
The Missouri Department of Transportation plans a public celebration and I-49 sign unveiling at 12 noon that day in the gym at Joplin East Middle School, 7501 E. 26th Street. Federal, state and local government officials are expected to participate. I-49 shields installed along U.S. 71 will be uncovered or turned around to face traffic on Dec. 12.
A countdown to the Dec. 12 event and information about the development of I-49 can be found on the MoDOT web site — www.modot.org/southwest. Progress of I-49 in Missouri U.S. 71 along the western edge of Missouri south of Kansas City — a distance of 185 miles — has been upgraded to interstate highway standards, with new interchanges, overpasses and outer roads. The transformation of U.S. 71 to I-49 in Missouri has taken decades to accomplish.
Planning for the final series of projects was begun in the late 1980s, with construction beginning in the early 1990s and continuing through 2012. The cost reached nearly $500 million.
Highway officials in Arkansas and Louisiana also are working to complete Interstate 49 in their states. The first section of highway designated as I-49 was in 1984 in Louisiana. Taken together, Interstate 49 south of Kansas City and Interstate 29 north of Kansas City will cover 1,630 miles of highway. The interstate corridor will link busy Gulf Coast ports at New Orleans with south-central Canada near Winnepeg, a busy center of industry, transportation, agriculture, mineral mining and energy. The interstate highway up and down the middle of the United States — through Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota — will mean less congestion to improve the flow of goods and people. It is expected to attract more commerce from businesses seeking to locate or expand in communities with an interstate highway nearby. Safety will be enhanced because interstate highway access is allowed only at interchanges, with no more at-grade intersections.