In February 2003, a Congressional caucus was formed to promote the completion of Interstate 49 from New Orleans to Kansas City, Mo. In March 2003, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and transportation agencies from Louisiana and Arkansas formed the I-49 Coordinating Committee.
Its purpose is to coordinate the development and conversion of existing highways into a freeway called I-94. MoDOT has determined that over a 20-year period this project will generate $2.2 million in new net general revenues, $58.4 million in new income and $126.9 million in new economic activity.
“We are confident there are businesses that would be willing to locate their businesses along this corridor once the conversion occurs,” said Sean Matlock, district 7 project manager of MoDOT.
MoDOT has continued with this conversion process by holding a series of public meetings along the existing Highway 71 corridor. MoDOT’s purpose is to show what steps are necessary to bring this highway up to interstate standards. This includes the elimination of 20 at grade crossings and replacing them with 13 new interchanges.
“Our intent is to make the roadway safer by eliminating all the at-grade crossings and replacing them with new interchanges,” said Matlock.
According to Matlock, early estimates indicate the upgrades will cost $200 million.
“MoDOT already has $72 million designated for projects through their STIP budget,” said Matlock.
STIP is Missouri’s Statewide Improvement Program, which provides funding for improving and rebuilding the state’s roads and bridges. This 2009-2013 transportation program includes $300 million in new construction projects statewide.
“Since there is currently not enough funding to upgrade Highway 71 totally, we will maximize the funds that are available through ’Practical Design’ and also pursue other funding,” Matlock said.
“The Practical Design process means building our projects to meet the current need-only and not project needs basis. This allows us to build more improvements. This adds to the benefits we can deliver to our customers, without compromising safety” Matlock said.
“Interchanges will be built with right-of-way acquired in the 1960’s and 1970’s. At present we have acquired all right-of-way to begin construction, except for a 4-mi. section in Bates County, Mo. In most cases, these interchanges will have low traffic volume. As a result, we can then adjust pavement thickness and reduce our costs,” Matlock said.
“We also are looking at constructing different types of interchanges, such as a half diamond interchange in certain locations,” said Matlock. “Half diamond interchanges, prevent access from one direction. They will be placed in close proximity to full interchanges which will allow traffic access in both directions.”
It is anticipated that construction of some projects will begin as early as 2011. No specific construction dates have been established for these projects.
Maps of these future projects are available at www.modot.orgsouthwest.