The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission today 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. Improvements include removing at-grade crossings and bring Missouri closer to getting an I-49 designation.
This will be a huge safety improvement as at-grade crossings are removed in order to meet interstate requirements. It will mean a smoother and safer ride for long-distance travelers, and enhanced economic development and freight travel.
The original intent was to fund a four-lane bypass of Bella Vista, Ark., creating an interstate from Joplin to Fort Smith, Ark. Once Arkansas decided to move forward with two lanes rather than four for the Bella Vista Bypass, money was available to begin work on U.S. 71.