Midwest officials pushing for new north-south interstate

| Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Officials and business leaders in Kansas City, MO, are pushing a plan to upgrade U.S. 71 from Kansas City south to Louisiana into an interstate highway, local media sources reported.

The highway is one of the main freight routes between the two areas. In addition, it passes by the Richard-Gebaur Memorial Airport, which is being upgraded into an inland port and intermodal freight facility.

Four-lane divided portions already exist from Lafayette to Shreveport, LA; from Fort Smith to Rogers, AR; and from the Arkansas-Missouri border to Kansas City. Some of the four-lane portions would require upgrades to meet interstate standards, but many already carry interstate designations.

The new highway would carry the designation I-49. That highway already runs from Lafayette, LA, north to Shreveport, LA. From Shreveport, the new portion of interstate would follow U.S. 71 north along the western border of Arkansas, running near the boundary with Texas and Oklahoma. It would pass into Missouri near Joplin, MO, and then follow the current four-lane U.S. 71 into Kansas City, where it would link to I-29, a highway that runs north to the Canadian border.

Chris Gutierrez, president of Kansas City SmartPort, told The Business Journal of Kansas City that the new highway would cost roughly $4.5 billion to build.

If built the highway would not only link the port of New Orleans with Kansas City, but also connect to the headquarters of retail giant Wal-Mart Corp. in Bentonville, AR, as well as linking to Interstates 10, 20, 30, 40, 44, 70 and 35.