The conversion of U.S. Highway 71 to Interstate 49 is nearing completion.

The conversion of U.S. Highway 71 to Interstate 49 is nearing completion.

The 180-mile stretch of highway, from Route H in Pineville to I-435 in Grandview, just south of Kansas City, is expected to be designated as Interstate 49 by mid-December.

Angela Eden, senior community relations specialist with the Missouri Department of Transportation, said there are several projects left to be completed before the switch can take place.

Those projects include the completion of construction of outer roads in Bates County, the construction of an interchange in Vernon County at Route TT, just north of Nevada, and the lengthening of some on-ramps in Cass County near Harrisonville.

Eden said MoDOT officials expect the work to be completed by mid-November.

Once completed, Eden said a letter will be sent to the Federal Highway Administration alerting them that the stretch of highway is up to interstate standards.

“They will have to do a drive through from Pineville to I-435 in Kansas City,” Eden said.

Eden said once the highway is determined to have met interstate standards, the Federal Highway Administration will send a letter to MoDOT, granting final approval for the conversion. 

“By the end of 2012 we are confident I-49 will exist in Missouri,” Eden said.

She said drivers should expect to see new Interstate 49 signs going up soon after.
Some new signs have already popped up along U.S. Highway 71, though they are not yet allowed to display I-49 signs.

The new signs are small, blue direction markers.

Eden said once the designation is formally approved, I-49 signs will be added to those markers.

“People will see signs go up within about a week of the letter,” Eden said.

Though the highway north of Interstate 44 has needed several improvements to upgrade to interstate standards, Sean Matlock, MoDOT project manager, said the portion of U.S. Highway 71 south of Interstate 44 and stretching to Route H in Pineville has needed virtually no repairs.

“It was built to interstate standards,” Matlock said.

Matlock said to meet interstate standards, there must be no intersections. Other requirements include lengthened ramps.

That stretch of U.S. Highway 71 was built in the late 1990s, and Matlock said the future I-49 was already in mind at the time of that construction.

Matlock said the interstate corridor was included in the International Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, passed by congress in 1991.

Interstate 49 is designed to stretch from Shreveport, La., to Kansas City.