The existing route of US 71 from Kansas City south to Pineville has been upgraded to interstate highway standards and will be officially dedicated as I-49 in a ceremony at noon on December 12, 2012, at Joplin East Middle School. I-49 will join 29, 35, 44, 55, and 70 in the list of Missouri's major interstate highways, as well as the shorter routes 57, 64, 72, 155, 170, 229, 255, 270, 435, 470, 635, and 670.
The major improvements made to convert US 71 to I-49 were the elimination of all at-grade crossings and intersections so access to the new highway is by interchange only. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) has a map of the I-49 corridor showing the locations of the upgrades.
Sections of I-49 already exist in Louisiana and plans are being made to complete the connecting sections in Arkansas. Once finished, with its link to I-29 in Kansas City, the combined route will extend from the gulf coast near New Orleans to southern Canada.
An important section of I-49 still to be completed is the "Bella Vista Bypass" from Pineville, MO, south past Bella Vista, AR, which will avoid the local traffic congestion of that area. Funding for the bypass got a boost from a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects that was approved by Arkansas voters in the November 2012 election.
The Library has several interesting books and videos about the interstate system and Missouri roads. Some of them are:
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