Missouri Department of Transportation officials say the state is getting closer to an I-49 designation in the Show-Me State. Earlier this week, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved highway construction resulting in the upgrading of the U.S. 71 corridor between Kansas City and Joplin to interstate standards by the end of 2012.
Missouri Department of Transportation Interim Director Kevin Keith said improving U.S. 71 between I-435 in Kansas City and I-44 near Joplin “enhances economic opportunities and freight movement.”
The original intent was to fund a four-lane bypass of Bella Vista, AR, creating an interstate from Joplin to Fort Smith, Ark. However, recent correspondence from the Arkansas State Highway Commission indicates that, due to funding shortfalls, it intends to construct a two-lane Bella Vista bypass in phases over six years.
Since a two-lane bypass would not be compatible with interstate standards, the MHTC was compelled to shift its priorities on U.S. 71.
“We need to capitalize on the opportunity to bring I-49 to Missouri between Kansas City and Joplin,” said Rudy Farber, Commission Chairman, “but still work with Arkansas toward progress on the Bella Vista Bypass.”
Once improvements between Kansas City and Joplin are complete, any remaining funds will be used to begin construction of the Bella Vista Bypass in coordination with Arkansas.