Upgrades approved for Missouri highway

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission (MHTC) on Aug. 4 approved highway construction for the upgrade of the US 71 corridor between Kansas City and Joplin to meet interstate standards by the end of 2012.

“Improving US 71 between I-435 in Kansas City and I-44 near Joplin enhances economic development opportunities and freight movement,” Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) Interim Director Kevin Keith said in a press statement. “We are excited about getting closer to an I-49 designation in Missouri.”

The original intent was to fund a four-lane bypass of Bella Vista, Ark., 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 throughout a six-year period.

Since a two-lane bypass would not be compatible with interstate standards, the MHTC was compelled to shift its priorities on US 71.

“We need to capitalize on the opportunity to bring I-49 to Missouri between Kansas City and Joplin,” said Rudy Farber, Missouri State Highway 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.