Cass County, as well as the rest of western Missouri, is about to officially welcome in Interstate 49.
According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, the transformation of U.S. 71 to I-49 in Missouri has taken decades to accomplish.
MoDOT states that the planning for the final series of projects was begun in the late 1980s, with construction beginning in the the early 1990s and continuing through 2012.
On Wednesday, Dec. 12, the signs wills be turned to display the I-49 designation, marking the approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
The designation will apply to 180 miles of highway between Bannister Road, just north of the Triangle in Kansas City, and Route H in Pineville.
MoDOT has long stated that the improved interstate connection will mean less congestion to improve the flow of goods and people and is expected to attract more commerce to the region it serves.
New interchanges, overpasses and outer roads have been added throughout the state, including Cass County, to improve the safety of the roadway.
A statewide celebration will be at 12 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Joplin East Middle School, 7501 E. 26th Street, in southern Missouri. Federal, state and local government officials are expected to take part.
A local celebration will be taking place at 4 p.m. at Gail’s Harley Davidson, 5900 Missouri 150, Grandview.
According to Steve Porter, senior customer relations specialist with MoDOT, said they wanted to hold the local celebration as close to the Cass and Jackson County line.
“This event won't be merely a ceremony unveiling an interstate sign. That would miss the most important point of what this change means to your communities, and to Missourians as a whole,” he said in a written release. “We want the theme of the December 12 news conference to focus on the development potential of this corridor, and of the strong partnerships we have among the state, counties and cities who share this corridor. We will draw attention to the cooperative projects that have funded interchange improvements and new interchanges at Route 150, 163rd Street, North Cass Parkway and soon at Route 291 and at a new 211th Street interchange. The news conference will also emphasize the shared benefits of untangling the Triangle at the north end of I-49, the new bridge deck at Routes C and J interchange in Peculiar, the two overpasses at 283rd and 327th and the new interchange at 307th.”
MoDOT said they have future plans to widen the highway to three full lanes each direction between 163rd Street and North Cass Parkway, access improvements at Route 58, and interchange improvements at 155th Street.
Nationwide, long-term plans call for I-49 to run from Kansas City to New Orleans, where it will connect with other interstates to provide a freeway link from the Gulf Coast ports to the Canadian border in North Dakota via Interstate 29
Highway officials in Arkansas and Louisiana also are working to complete Interstate 49 in their states.
Cass County also has a personal connection to the Interstate 49 board.
Belton Mayor and newly-elected Cass County Associate Commissioner Jimmy Odom serves on the council.
Odom believes strongly in the opportunities that the interstate distinction will bring to the county.