US 71 Highway Ready to Change to I-49- But Are You?
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Wednesday, December 12 at noon U.S. 71 Highway from Kansas City south to Joplin will officially become Interstate 49.
Officials with the Missouri Department of Transportation have been working to change all the signs.
The change comes as Transportation Departments work to create an all-interstate connection between Kansas City and New Orleans.
The interstate designation is expected to be an economic boon in Missouri, especially near the intermodal freight facility at the former Richards-Gebauer Air Force Base in south Kansas City.
The nearly $64 million project – which was 80% paid for by the federal government using stimulus dollars – will stretch southwards from the current U.S. 71 – I-435 interchange in south Kansas City. The Bruce R. Watkins Drive through Kansas City is not part of the project, and will remain unchanged.
Because of a class-action agreement between the state and local residents along Bruce R. Watkins Drive, the state and city are forbidden from turning the roadway – which was a long-time source of controversy in the surrounding neighborhoods both before and during construction, into an interstate or restricted-access highway without a court order.
The I-49 project will end at Pineville, Missouri – just north of the Arkansas border. Not including local interstates 435, 635 and 470, the completion of I-49 will give the metro area four major interstate routes with I-70, I-35 and I-29.