Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kansas City's US Highway 71 Officially Becomes A Part Of New Interstate 49

Today marks the official transition from US Highway 71 to Interstate 49, a new roadway that will run from the Canadian border all the way to New Orleans. The 180 mile stretch of US 71 from Kansas City to Joplin, MO has been officially improved to interstate standards, including upgrades to the road and interchanges.

Once completed, the northern portion of I-49 will end at the ramp to I-435 and I-470 in Kansas City. This split will give drivers heading north two options:  either taking I-29 which ends in Manitoba, Canada, or I-35, which ends in Duluth, Minnesota. The southern part of I-49 will end in New Orleans at the Gulf of Mexico.

Progress on the road has been slower in Arkansas and Louisiana, although Louisiana’s portion of I-49 could be completed within the next year. Arkansas’ portion of the highway is mostly new construction, with a $2 billion estimated cost to complete a road between I-30 and I-40. Funding has been a major issue in Arkansas for new roads, which has been the primary cause for delay.

Missouri’s cost for the project was an estimated $400 million, much lower than Arkansas’ cost due to US 71 was already a four-lane highway. Most of the construction done including removing at-grade intersections by building new interchanges.

I-49 is expected to give the country’s economy a boost by significantly improving transportation around the Midwest. The planned route will intersect with nine existing interstates running from east-to-west, creating a transportation grid that will improve the movement of both goods and people.

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