I-49 Coalition Marks Milestones
McDONALD COUNTY CITIES ATTENDED TO VOICE NEEDS
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.