The Dec. 12 dedication in Joplin of the new Interstate 49 between Kansas City and Pineville will recognize the economic impact and safety benefits the interstate highway is expected to bring to Missouri, the Missouri Department of Transportation said.
The ceremony, in the gym at Joplin East Middle School, will begin at 12 noon Wednesday, Dec. 12. The middle school is located at 7501 E. 26th Street in the Crossroads Industrial Park. National and state dignitaries are expected to take part in the event, including Missouri U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and Victor Mendez, head of the Federal Highway Administration in Washington, D.C.
Out on the highway that day, I-49 signs already put up along U.S. 71 will be uncovered or turned to face traffic, with crews working in every county — McDonald, Newton, Jasper, Barton, Vernon, Bates, Cass and Jackson. Signs along I-49 will still carry the U.S. 71 shield. That’s because U.S. 71 in Missouri has not been relocated and is still part of the national U.S. 71 corridor that also runs through Iowa and Minnesota to the north and through Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana to the south.
Work to upgrade U.S. 71 to interstate standards has been under way for many years along the highway’s 185 miles between Kansas City and Pineville. The road was four-laned where it had been only two lanes wide and more interchanges, overpasses and outer roads were built along four-lane segments. All at-grade intersections were eliminated. Benefits of Interstate Highway System Various studies by the Federal Highway Administration, university researchers and business groups show the interstate highway system, whose construction began in 1956, is as important to the nation’s infrastructure as electricity, water and sewer. The interstate highway system has:
• Contributed significantly to growth in U.S. business productivity and helped businesses control production and distribution costs. Factors include reduced driving delays between urban centers, more reliable on-time delivery of freight and greater connectivity to air and rail terminals and river, lake and ocean ports.
• Made driving safer. The fatality rate is 60 percent lower than the rest of the system and the injury rate is 70 percent lower.
• Increased mobility for the general public. This creates more job opportunities for workers, with the potential for higher income levels. Travel for family and recreational activities is easier.
• Enhanced national security. The interstate highway grid provides smooth, wide, fast, intersection-free roads that can be used in times of national or regional crisis to move military equipment and supplies and serve as evacuation and rescue routes.