I-49 Coali­tion Marks Mile­stones


McDonald County Press - - FRONT PAGE - Me­gan Davis

A num­ber of McDon­ald County mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were rep­re­sented at the Trans­porta­tion Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee meet­ing in Di­a­mond last week.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Pineville, South­west City, Lana­gan and Jane attended to learn more about high­ways, by­ways and in­ter­states in Mis­souri as well as pro­vide a voice for the needs of their com­mu­ni­ties.

Pineville, South­west City and An­der­son were rec­og­nized for their re­cent adop­tion of a Liv­able Streets Pol­icy in sup­port of a com­plete, con­nected and safe trans­porta­tion sys­tem for those who walk and bi­cy­cle in their com­mu­nity.

Nikki Hill with the Harry S. Tru­man Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil ex­pressed grat­i­tude for Brandy Smith, with the McDon­ald County Health De­part­ment. Over the last year, Smith has trav­eled from city to city, ad­vo­cat­ing for the pol­icy’s adop­tion.

“McDon­ald County had more cities adopt this pol­icy than any other county in the state,” Hill said. “You guys rock.”

Guest speaker Gard Wayt, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the I-49 In­ter­na­tional Coali­tion, spoke about the in­ter­state’s progress and the coali­tion’s goals. Wayt has been ac­tively in­volved in de­vel­op­ing I-49 for more than three decades.

“Pa­tience and per­sis­tence,” he said. “That’s ex­actly what it takes to make an in­ter­state.”

The I-49 In­ter­na­tional Coali­tion was or­ga­nized in 2002 by unit­ing

groups from Mis­souri, Arkansas and Louisiana that were ad­vo­cat­ing for the com­ple­tion of their lo­cal sec­tions of the in­ter­state.

Since then, th­ese peo­ple have been work­ing col­lec­tively to see I-49 con­nect from New Or­leans, La., to Kansas City, Mo.

At Kansas City, I-49 will feed into In­ter­state 29, which con­nects Kansas City to Win­nipeg, Man­i­toba, Canada, and cre­ate a 1,700-mile un­in­ter­rupted cor­ri­dor from Canada, through the heart of Amer­ica, to the port sys­tems of Louisiana.

A huge mile­stone for the coali­tion oc­curred in 2012 when 180 miles of U.S. High­way 71, south from Kansas City to Pineville, was con­verted to I-49.

Two years later, af­ter mul­ti­ple vis­its to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and in­no­va­tive fund­ing, I-49 of­fi­cially be­came an in­ter­state when the stretch of road be­tween Shreve­port, La., and Texarkana, Ark., was com­pleted.

“It’s about find­ing un­used rev­enue in the re­gion and putting it to work,” Wayt said.

Com­plet­ing I-49 will fill a 400-mile gap in north-south in­ter­states through the Heart­land and will in­ter­sect with nine ex­ist­ing east-west in­ter­states, cre­at­ing a trans­porta­tion grid that will stream­line the move­ment of food, goods and peo­ple to, from and through Mid-Amer­ica.

“Un­til linked, your in­ter­state isn’t op­er­at­ing at full ca­pac­ity,” Wayt said. “The in­ter­state cre­ates progress and pros­per­ity for all of us. We just have to be pa­tient and per­sis­tent.”

Nikki Hill up­dated at­ten­dees on the Trans­porta­tion Al­ter­na­tive Pro­gram/Recre­ation Trail Pro­gram. Hill said the HSTCC is work­ing on a county-wide trail plan, be­gin­ning with South­west City.

“Whether the cities uti­lize them or not is up to the coun­cil, but the plans will tie into the re­gional trail plan and ideally, even­tu­ally, con­nect with the Ra­zor­back Green­way in Arkansas,” said Hill.

The com­mit­tee has com­pleted side­walk as­sess­ments in 11 towns this year to date, in­clud­ing Pineville, South­west City, An­der­son, Lana­gan, Good­man and Noel.

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