U.S. 71 becomes new interstate highway on Dec. 12

U.S. 71 signU.S. 71 will officially achieve interstate status from Joplin to Harrisonville at noon on Dec. 12. A formal ceremony to unveil Missouri’s newest interstate will take place in Joplin at the East Middle School. A Kansas City area news conference to focus on the development potential of the change to Interstate 49 will occur later that afternoon near the new I-49 and Route 150.

The change to I-49 between I-44 near Joplin and 3-Trails Crossing Memorial Highway in south Kansas City marks a bold new step along the Route 71 corridor. I-49 will be the first interstate highway in Cass County, and for several counties to the south. Interstate highways are often prerequisites to accelerated development, and are key elements that businesses and manufacturers seek when relocating or expanding, or when transporting freight.

This is part of a broader effort by Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri to complete I-49 from New Orleans to Kansas City, with the ultimate goal of connecting Canada to the Gulf Coast. In Missouri, improving Route 71 to interstate standards has required elimination of at-grade intersections, including more than 20 at-grade intersections between I-44 near Carthage and Route 7 in Harrisonville. Some were replaced by overpasses, others by interchanges.

In Cass County, crossings at 283rd and 327th were replaced this summer by bridges over the highway, with no ramp access. The crossing at 307th opened late this summer as a full interchange. Funding for the improvements has come from federal and state tax revenue. Four interchanges south of Cass County were funded through $26.9 million of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

While elimination of three at-grade intersections are the only major changes necessary to raise Route 71 to interstate standards in the Kansas City District, other improvements have been completed or are considered along the corridor from Harrisonville to Kansas City.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Belton, Raymore, Kansas City, Cass and Jackson counties are discussing improvements at Route 71 and 155th Street interchange, which is the Cass/Jackson County line. This interchange offers additional access to the CenterPoint Intermodal Center and other aspects of the redeveloped former Richards-Gebaur Air Base. It also provides improved access to the planned developments to the east. The project is not yet funded.

MoDOT will soon begin design of a new interchange at 211th Street, a cost-share project with Peculiar that will provide more direct access to the Raymore-Peculiar Schools on the east and to a developing portion of north Peculiar to the west.

In July, MoDOT replaced the deck of the Route J and C overpass at Route 71 in Peculiar. The $1.1 million project also added a sidewalk on the north side.

In Harrisonville, MoDOT is designing a way to reconfigure the Route 291 interchange. Harrisonville developers and businesses have formed a transportation development district to help fund the project, which will begin in 2014.

Within the span of 11 months, MoDOT opened three interchange improvements from south Kansas City to south of Raymore and Belton. Although none were necessary to achieve interstate status, all were built to interstate specifications.

In December 2009, Belton and MoDOT officials opened a new diamond interchange at 163rd Street, which provides access from Route 71 to Route Y and a new arterial roadway in Belton.

In July 2010, MoDOT, Raymore and Belton opened the new North Cass Parkway interchange at about 187th Street. It offers new access to Raymore, Belton and north Peculiar, relieving traffic congestion at Cass County’s busiest interchange, Route 58.

In November 2010, Grandview, Kansas City and MoDOT opened a new single-point urban interchange that replaces the tight-diamond interchange at Route 150. The $27 million project is a gateway to further improvements of Route 150 east and west of Route 71.

One mile west, MoDOT will soon complete construction of a new diverging-diamond interchange at Route 150 and Botts Road that will serve the CenterPoint Intermodal Center. To the east, MoDOT completed a seven-mile reconstruction of Route 150, widening to a four-lane, divided highway from Route 71 to Route 291.

Guard cable was added last summer along the Route 71 corridor from Grandview south to Route 7 in Harrisonville. MoDOT has found guard cable highly valuable in saving lives and preventing serious crossover accidents. Kansas City Scout cameras now give motorists views of Route 71 from downtown to Route 7.

For more information, contact MoDOT’s Steve Porter.

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