|Length:||388.00 mi (624.43 km)|
|Existed:||1984 – present|
|South end:||I-10 / US 167 in Lafayette, LA|
|North end:||I-20 in Shreveport, LA|
|South end:||I-44 near Joplin, MO|
|North end:||I-435 / I-470 / US 50 / US 71 in Kansas City, MO|
Interstate 49 (I-49) is an Interstate Highway that exists in two segments: the original portion located entirely within the state of Louisiana in the southern United States, and a new section that opened in the state of Missouri in the midwest United States. Its southern terminus is in Lafayette, Louisiana, at Interstate 10 while its northern terminus is in Kansas City, Missouri, just north of Interstate 435. Portions of the remaining roadway in Arkansas and Texas, which will link Kansas City with New Orleans, are in various stages of planning or construction.
The Louisiana segment of I-49 begins its journey in Lafayette concurrent with U.S. Route 167 from I-10 to Opelousas at Exit 23. At Lafayette, motorists continuing southbound see the interstate highway change to U.S. 90 (Evangeline Thruway), a major thoroughfare taking travelers towards the heart of Lafayette. North of Lafayette, motorists on I-49 will parallel the ancient Mississippi river bed north of Carencro, and through Grand Coteau, just south of Opelousas.
After leaving Opelousas, I-49 traverses the relatively flat, fertile farmlands until reaching Alexandria. From there, the highway roughly follows the Red River and Louisiana 1, bypassing the historic city of Natchitoches to the west on its way to Shreveport. At Shreveport, the highway parallels a railroad line just to the west until its terminus at I-20 southwest of downtown.
The heaviest traffic on I-49 occurs within the cities of Shreveport and Opelousas. The stretch of freeway in Shreveport sees an average of 70,000 vehicles per day, while the stretch of freeway between Lafayette and Carencro sees an average of 55,000 vehicles per day, and the stretch of freeway through Opelousas sees an average of 45,000 vehicles per day between the Judson Walsh Drive and Creswell Lane exits.
No section in Texas has been signed as Interstate 49. Interstate 49 terminates at the Arkansas-Texas state border at US 59 and US 71 heading West, approximately 10 miles north of the regional hub Texarkana.
The Interstate 49 designation in Missouri became official at noon on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. The designation applies to 180 miles of current US 71 between Interstate 435 in south Kansas City and Route H at Pineville, Missouri (McDonald County) which was upgraded to Interstate standards beginning in 2010. The last of the upgrade projects was completed in December 2012. I-49 also runs concurrently with Interstate 44 between I-44 interchanges 11 and 18 east of Joplin, Missouri.
MoDOT began installing I-49 trailblazer signage (without shields) plus gantry signs and mile markers, about 1200 signs in all, in February 2012. Signage bearing I-49 shields was covered or turned from view until the I-49 designation received final approval by FHWA. This includes mile markers at 0.2-mile intervals along the entire alignment apart from Interstate 44.
The US 71 upgrade involved removing all at-grade intersections and constructing interchanges and overpasses at fifteen sites between Harrisonville and Lamar. The two-year project represented a shift in funding priorities for MoDOT which in 2007, announced indefinite postponement of its portion of the Bella Vista bypass project, citing a $139-million dollar funding gap in Arkansas between construction costs and toll revenues, and Arkansas' commitment to only a two-lane bypass constructed over six years. MoDOT announced the Joplin-to-Kansas City upgrade of US 71 in August 2010, to be done with the intention of bringing the I-49 designation to Missouri.
The original plans for Interstate Highways in Louisiana only included Interstates 10 and 20 with no connection in between. After Interstate 55 was added in the 1950s, the state considered building a toll road to connect I-10 in southwestern Louisiana and I-20 in the northern part of the state, but later rejected the idea.
In the mid-1970s, the Federal Highway Administration approved an Interstate Highway to run between I-10 and I-20, beginning at I-10 in Lafayette and ending at I-20 in Shreveport. The mileage was gained from mileage released from other highways the states did not build as well as 153 miles (246 km) from a supplemental reserve.
Construction of I-49 began in the early 1980s, the first signed segment from I-10 to Washington, Louisiana, opened in 1984. After several delays, most of the highway was open by the early 1990s. The entire length of the 212-mile (341 km) road was completed May 1, 1996 when a 16.6-mile (26.7 km) section of highway in Alexandria named the Martin Luther King Jr. Highway was completed. The total cost of I-49's construction was about $1.38 billion.
Arkansas and Missouri have been pursuing an I-49 designation for U.S. 71 and I-540 for a number of years. In the early 2000s, there were plans by both states to rename the roadway as such between I-44 west of Joplin and I-40 at Fort Smith, once new roadway had been completed around Bella Vista, Arkansas and north to Pineville, Missouri. However, the AASHTO Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbers and Interstate Highways denied the I-49 designation at their annual meeting in September 2007 because none of the new roadway was under construction.
During this time, there was also some debate as to whether the Interstate 29 designation should be extended further south from its current terminus in Kansas City, to either Joplin or all the way to Fort Smith.
A 180-mile stretch of U.S. 71 from south Kansas City to Joplin officially became Interstate 49 at noon on December 12, 2012.
Interstate 49 North is a 36-mile construction project that will connect I-220 in Shreveport to the Arkansas state line. This project has been divided into 11 segments. Of the 11 segments, 4 are complete and 5 are under construction. As of November 2012[update], $460 million of $622 million needed to complete the project has been secured.
State transportation officials are currently working on plans to extend Interstate 49 to the south and east, from Lafayette to New Orleans roughly following the path of the current U.S. 90, which is at present a four-lane divided highway between the two cities. However, from Morgan City to near Raceland, U.S. 90 is an interstate-standard freeway, bypassing Houma to the north.
In the Lafayette area, the project is divided into two projects, the I-49 Connector and the rest of the interstate from the Lafayette Regional Airport to LA 88. The I-49 Connector has a record of decision and is currently in the process of formulating the Environmental Impact Study. It is planned to be a six-lane elevated freeway, passing to the West of the current Evangeline Thruway corridor, as to be closer to the Central Business District in Downtown Lafayette. The rest of the freeway from the airport to LA 88 will be an at grade six-lane freeway with a two mile (3 km) segment of eight-lane elevated freeway through the suburb of Broussard.
In the immediate New Orleans area, I-49 is planned to follow the route of the U.S. 90 Business (also known locally as the Westbank Expressway) through Westwego, Gretna and across the Crescent City Connection into downtown New Orleans, ending at I-10. "Future I-49" signage is visible along U.S. 90 and U.S. 90 Business, although as of December 2012, construction has yet to begin.
In addition to the southeastward extension, Louisiana officials are also working on clearing, grubbing and drainage for the new extension from Shreveport to the Arkansas line. The construction roughly parallels U.S. 71 northward from I-220. Plans are underway to connect I-49 at the I-20 interchange with I-49 North in the vicinity of the I-220 interchange.
It is presently being constructed to complete the routing to the state line. "Future I-49" segments extending northward from Texarkana, AR plus segments from Doddridge south into Louisiana are shown on the official Arkansas 2013 Highway Map
The 180-mile section between Texarkana and Fort Smith remains largely incomplete. Right-of-way has been acquired and engineering has been completed, but construction is contingent upon allocating funding to the corridor. After applying for and receiving assistance from the 2012 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, AHTD has begun construction on a new highway location for I-49 between the current I-40/I-540 interchange and US 71 south of Fort Smith, bypassing Van Buren and Fort Smith. Work is underway between US 71 and Highway 22 near Fort Chaffee as the first and southernmost phase of the extension of I-49 south of I-540. The project is explicitly mentioned as an effort to complete I-49 in the TIGER grant application. Colloquially referred to as "Chaffee Crossing", AHTD anticipates completion of this first phase in late 2014 or early 2015. Generally, I-49 is planned to follow the general route of US 71 through the state between Interstate 30 and Interstate 40.
Northern portion and Bella Vista Bypass
North of I-40, Interstate 49 will follow existing Interstate 540 which currently ends south of Bella Vista, about 8 miles south of the Missouri state line. Here, motorists continue north 15 miles of four-lane US 71 with intersections, traffic signals, lower speed limits and congestion before the present northern segment of I-49 begins at Pineville, Missouri. Many motorists in Arkansas and Missouri, especially truckers, are eager to see completion of the 19-mile "Bella Vista Bypass" between Bella Vista, Arkansas and Pineville, Missouri.
A major hurdle to construction of the bypass over the years has been funding. The 2010 TIGER grant application submitted by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) estimated total cost for completion in Arkansas as $291.8 million. The document states the portion of the bypass in Arkansas is "proposed to be constructed as a toll facility, while the Missouri portion of the Bypass will be constructed as a free route".
On August 11, 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced $10 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funding to construction "portions" of the new four-lane bypass, though the funding covers only a two-lane segment 2.5 miles long. Groundbreaking occurred on July 8, 2011 with a public ceremony that included Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, and Senator Mark Pryor. The USDOT news release refers to the project as part of the "I-49 corridor", effectively ending questions about how the new highway would be numbered.
Following the passing of a sales tax measure in 2012, AHTD anticipates enough additional sales tax revenue to be provided by the ten-year measure to fund the northbound half of the Bella Vista Bypass without tolls. Since design work had been completed prior to passing the measure, Arkansas anticipates the Bella Vista Bypass will be one of the earliest projects let after funds are released from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration in August 2013.
North of Texarkana, Interstate 49 will briefly venture into Texas for about 5 miles before turning Northwest and reenter Arkansas. How the mileposts and the exits will be numbered once the Interstate returns to Arkansas have yet to be determined.
In 2012, Missouri still had $40 million available for construction of its portion of the Bella Vista bypass from Pineville to the Arkansas state line. MoDOT's I-49 project manager said in an interview that "[MoDOT has] told Arkansas that whatever schedule it sets, we will meet them at the state line." However, once Arkansas began building toward the state line it was revealed that Missouri was $25 million short of the necessary funds to complete their section. A ballot initiative was denied by the Missouri Legislature that would've allocated the necessary funds, meaning the earliest Missouri can dedicate the funds is following statewide voter approval at the polls in November 2014. Not wanting to build an destination-less stub road, the Arkansas State Highway Commission officially postponed the construction of the segment between the Missouri state line and County Road 34 in September 2013 pending Missouri acquiring funding.
The I-49 designation carries through the Three Trails Crossing (formerly known as the Grandview Triangle) interchange to guide motorists onto US 71 north of I-435 and terminates north of I-435 and south of Bannister Road (Route W) around the 190.0 mile marker.
From this point north, US 71 follows Bruce R. Watkins Drive, a parkway which directly connects the I-70 / I-670 interchange in downtown Kansas City, as well as the I-35 / I-29 and I-70 interchange just to the north, to south Kansas City and I-435, I-470 and I-49.
Most of the 10.2-mile corridor, constructed between 1990 and 2001, was built to Interstate standards. However, three at-grade intersections — at Gregory Boulevard (71st Street), 59th Street and 55th Street — prevent the I-49 designation from being extended all the way to downtown. All three of these intersections were on the Kansas City Police Department's 2010 list of "Top 20 Crash Sites in Kansas City", at #9, #6 and #4 respectively and Watkins Drive has the reputation among commuters as "one of the city's most accident-prone stretches of road".
Many neighborhood associations in Kansas City have historically objected to upgrading Watkins Drive to a freeway. MoDOT has gone on record stating a court order keeps them from removing the stoplights, making conversion of this stretch unlikely.
As for any future upgrade, a MoDOT blog post says "Ample right of way was acquired to someday allow MoDOT to reconstruct the three signal-controlled, at-grade intersections to grade-separated interchanges, allowing traffic on Bruce R. Watkins Drive to flow unimpeded. Neither MoDOT nor the city of Kansas City can initiate this change. It is up to the citizens, who must raise the issue again through the court system to amend the class-action agreement."
- "FHWA Route Log and Finder List: Table 1". Federal Highway Administration. October 31, 2002. Retrieved March 28, 2007.
- "U.S. 71 from Kansas City to Joplin to become Interstate 49". Kansas City Star. September 2, 2012.
- "New I-49 Signs Being Installed Along U.S. 71". Missouri Department of Transportation.
- "New I-49 Signs Being Installed Along U.S. 71". Missouri Department of Transportation.
- "Missouri gateway to Bella Vista bypass scrapped". Joplin Independent (Joplin, MO). October 15, 2007.
- "I-49 Coming to Missouri". Missouri Department of Transportation. August 4, 2010. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- "Previous Facts of the Day". 50th Anniversary Interstate Highway System. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved May 27, 2007.
- Kennedy, Wally (May 11, 2007). "Plan holds 2008 finish for Range Line Bypass". The Joplin Globe (Joplin, MO). Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- "AASHTO Annual Meeting Report". American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. September 29, 2007.
- "Interstate 49 (Corridors 1 and 37)". AAroads.com. June 9, 2002. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- "I-49 North". Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- [dead link]
- "Highway 549 Opens to Traffic in Texarkana Wednesday". Information Release. Little Rock, Arkansas: Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. May 13, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- "Highway 71 New Location (Future Interstate 49)" (PDF). Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Discretionary Grant Program Fiscal Year 2012 Application. Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. p. 2. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- Russell, Tony (March 21, 2013). "Paving begins on Chaffee Crossing stretch of I-49". KHBS. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- "TIGER II Discretionary Grant Program 2010 application | AHTD
- "U.S. Department of Transportation, Arkansas Agreement Clears Way for Construction on Bella Vista Bypass". Press Release. United States Department of Transportation. August 11, 2010. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- Smith, Jamie (April 9, 2013). "Half-cent sales tax projects coming into fruition". The City Wire. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
- Ostmeyer, Andy (November 12, 2012). "Bella Vista bypass going forward following passage of half-cent sales tax in Arkansas". Joplin Globe. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- "US-71 Highway to become I-49 on Wednesday". KMBC-TV. December 11, 2012.
- Kargas, Marissa; Leach, Sean (September 12, 2013). "Bella Vista Bypass Hits $25M Bump in the Road". NWA Homepage. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- Moritz, Rob (September 12, 2013). "Highway Commission Postpones Part Of Bella Vista Bypass Project". Arkansas News Bureau. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- "Kansas City's Vital Link". Pathways (Missouri Department of Transportation). Fall 2001.
- "Bruce R. Watkins Drive Is Smoother Months Ahead of Schedule". Missouri Department of Transportation. July 28, 2009.
- "Kansas City PD Top 20 Crash Sites, 2010" (PDF). KMBC-TV.
- Wilson, Susan B. (June 15, 2010). "No Changes In Store For Controversial Bruce R Watkins Drive". Kansas City, MO: KCUR-FM. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- Ortega, Tony (May 26, 2005). "Road Rage". The Pitch (Kansas City, MO). Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- "Comments and responses from MoDOT’s blog relating to ARRA" (PDF). Summary of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Briefings. Missouri Department of Transportation. March 10, 2009. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Interstate 49.|
- Interstate Guide: I-49
- I-49 Energy Corridor
- I-49 North (Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development)
- I-49 Report
- I-49 Inner-City Connector-Shreveport
- I-49 Inner City Connector map (Shreveport, LA)
- I-49 Connector (Lafayette, LA)
- Future I-49 South Pictures (Stephen Gantry)
- Future I-49 South Pictures (Andy P. Jung)
- Arkansas Highway & Transportation Dept. - Bella Vista Bypass