Carthage has been a stopping point on U.S. Highway 71 since the route from the Canadian border to Louisiana was first designated in 1926.
That will change this year when the highway from Kansas City to McDonald County is re-designated Interstate 49 in December.
The Missouri Department of Transportation announced last week that new Interstate 49 signs will be put up between Pineville in McDonald County and I-435 in south Kansas City, a 180-mile stretch of roadway.
The signs will be installed, then covered until the Federal Highway Administration inspects MoDOT’s work on the road and approves the designation change.
“After the final approval is authorized, the I-49 signs will be uncovered or rotated into place,” MoDOT said in a written release. “The prime contractor on the signing project is Drew Corp. of Indianapolis, Ind., doing the work for a low bid amount of $3.5 million. The project is set for completion by Dec. 1, 2012.”
Good for development
Sabrina Drackert, outgoing president of the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, said this new designation means new opportunities for economic development in Carthage.
“That is exciting because if you talk to someone in California about a highway in Carthage, they ask how big is your highway, is it a two-lane road?” Drackert said. “But they know what an interstate is. There are industry standards for an interstate, so they know what an interstate means. It means it’s normally a good quality road, so from an economic development standpoint, while we won’t see a big difference driving on it, we may see some economic development opportunities that we wouldn’t normally be awarded.”
Drackert said Carthage could also benefit from being within a few miles of the intersection of two interstates.
“We always say x number of miles from I-44, but if you can say adjacent to I-49 and x number of miles to I-44, that looks good,” Drackert said. “You have the north-south and you have the east-west route. You look really good. We’re better off situated on I-49 and near I-44 than Joplin and Neosho just because of our location. I really hope it will be a good thing for distribution, warehousing and things like that.”
MoDOT said signing is the last contract to be awarded in the overall project to upgrade U.S. 71 to interstate status.
Work began on Jan. 30 on the final construction project to complete the upgrade.
MoDOT said workers started building an interchange at County Route TT in Vernon County between Horton and Rich Hill.
“The project involves building a bridge over U.S. 71 and building ramps connecting U.S. 71 to Route TT,” MoDOT said. “Workers will begin hauling rock and dirt to areas along the outside shoulders on either side of U.S. 71 in the area of Route TT to build up areas for a new bridge. The prime contractor is APAC-Hilty of Clinton, doing the work for a low bid amount of $6.4 million. Completion is scheduled for early December 2012.”
MoDOT said it’s also building an interchange and two overpasses in Cass County and an outer road project in Bates County near Rich Hill.