Interstate 49

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Interstate 49 marker

Interstate 49
Route of completed sections of I-49 as of 2014 in red
Route information
Length: 497.02 mi[1] (799.88 km)
Existed: 1984 – present
Original segment
South end: I‑10 / US 167 in Lafayette, LA
North end: I‑20 in Shreveport, LA
Northern Louisiana–southern Arkansas segment
South end: I‑220 in Shreveport, LA
North end: US 71 / US 59 in Texarkana, AR
Northern Arkansas segment
South end: I-40 / US 71 in Alma, AR
North end: US 71 in Bella Vista, AR
Missouri segment
South end: US 71 in Pineville, MO
I-44 near Joplin, MO
North end: I-435 / I-470 / US 50 / US 71 in Kansas City
Highway system

Interstate 49 (I-49) is an Interstate Highway that exists in multiple segments: the original portion entirely within the state of Louisiana with an additional signed portion that was expanded from LA 1 in Shreveport to the Arkansas state line, three newer sections in Arkansas, and a new section that opened in Missouri. Its southern terminus is in Lafayette, Louisiana, at Interstate 10 while its northern terminus is in Kansas City, Missouri at Interstate 435 and Interstate 470. Portions of the remaining roadway in Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas, which will link Kansas City with New Orleans, are in various stages of planning or construction.

Route description[edit]


The Louisiana segment of I-49 begins in Lafayette concurrent with US 167 from I-10 to Opelousas at exit 23. At Lafayette, motorists continuing southbound see the interstate highway change to US 90 (Evangeline Thruway), a major thoroughfare taking travelers towards the heart of Lafayette. North of Lafayette, motorists on I-49 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 Highway 1 (LA 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 it junctions at I-20 southwest of downtown. At that point the route is discontinuous until a junction with LA 1 northwest of Shreveport, where it then continues north to into Arkansas.

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.

Arkansas and Texas[edit]

The southern segment of I-49 enters Arkansas from Louisiana. It progresses northward to a temporary terminus at US 71 and US 59 at the Texas state line north of Texarkana.

The northern segment of I-49 in Arkansas, formerly signed as part of I-540, begins at I-40 in Alma and runs north into the Boston Mountains. The freeway passes through steep, sparsely populated terrain before entering the Bobby Hopper Tunnel in Washington County. Entering the Northwest Arkansas metropolitan area, I-49 has six exits for Fayetteville and three exits for Springdale before entering Benton County. The route serves as the boundary between Bentonville and Rogers, with seven exits for the two cities before terminating at US 71. The roadway continues as a divided highway with stoplights into Bella Vista, although a bypass is under construction.

I-49 is designated as the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop between Alma and Fayetteville. The I-49 designation replaced the I-540 designation through Northwest Arkansas in March 2014.[2]


I-49 begins in Pineville. It passes through many smaller communities before reaching Joplin. In Joplin, I-49 junctions with I-44 and begins a short concurrency with I-44 for exits 11 through 18.

Just a few miles east of Joplin, I-49 leaves I-44 and heads north and enters Carthage. I-49 then passes through Nevada and other communities before reaching the Kansas City area. I-49 intersects with I-435, which provides connection to I-35 and I-29.

In south Kansas City, at Bannister Road just north of the Grandview Triangle, the I-49 designation ends, and the expressway continues as US 71, which proceeds into downtown Kansas City as Bruce R. Watkins Memorial Drive.


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.[3]

Construction of I-49 began in the early 1980s, with the first signed segment from I-10 to Washington, Louisiana, opening 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 Interstate 44 west of Joplin and Interstate 40 at Fort Smith, once new roadway had been completed around Bella Vista, Arkansas and north to Pineville, Missouri.[4] 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.[5] During this time, there was also some debate as to whether the Interstate 29 designation should be extended farther south from its current terminus in Kansas City, to either Joplin or all the way to Fort Smith.[6]

A 180-mile stretch of U.S. 71 from south Kansas City to Joplin officially became Interstate 49 at noon on December 12, 2012.

Closed ramp which will serve as the northern end of the Bella Vista Bypass upon completion.
I-49 milepost marker south of Carthage, Missouri, temporarily turned so as not to be visible to traffic.

The I-49 designation in Missouri became official at noon on December 12, 2012.[7] The designation applies to 180 miles (290 km) of current US 71 between I-435 in south Kansas City and Route H at Pineville (McDonald County) which was upgraded to Interstate standards beginning in 2010.[8] The last of the upgrade projects was completed in December 2012. I-49 also runs concurrently with I-44 between interchanges 11 and 18 east of Joplin.

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 (0.32 km) intervals along the entire alignment apart from I-44.[8]

The US 71 upgrade involved removing all at-grade intersections and constructing interchanges and overpasses at 15 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.[9] 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.[10]

Most of the 10.2-mile corridor, constructed between 1990[11] 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[12] and Watkins Drive has the reputation among commuters as "one of the city's most accident-prone stretches of road".[13] Many neighborhood associations in Kansas City have historically objected to upgrading Watkins Drive to a freeway.[14] 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."[15]

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,[16] 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.

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, 9 are complete and 2 are under construction As of January 2015 and $460 million of $622 million needed to complete the project has been secured. An 18.9-mile section between State Route 1 and U.S. 71 opened on November 27, 2013;[17] the section to just south of the Arkansas state line opened in March 2014.[18]

I-130 that was the former designation in 1999-2000 was removed and no longer exist on the part of the Texarkana Loop.

Southern Arkansas segment[edit]

First reassurance marker on Highway 549 north of US 71 near Texarkana

A temporary designation of Highway 549 has been assigned to I-49 between US 71 north of Texarkana and Doddridge, 5 miles (8.0 km) from the state line.[19]

It is 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.[20]


I-49 (Future).svg

Central Louisiana segment[edit]

State transportation officials in Louisiana are 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.

Future corridor I-49 sign in Lafayette, LA

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 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 2014, 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 on the west northward from I-220. In Shreveport, a no-build proposal is to reroute I-49 along Louisiana 3132/Inner Loop Expressway and concurrent with I-220 from I-20 to its proposed alignment near U.S. 71,[21][22] which could make the existing I-49 between LA 3132 and I-20 a spur of I-49. The other alternative is to connect I-49 at the I-20 interchange with I-49 North at the I-220 interchange.[22]

Central Arkansas segment[edit]

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.[23] Colloquially referred to as "Chaffee Crossing", AHTD anticipates completion of this first phase in late 2014 or early 2015.[24] Generally, I-49 is planned to follow the general route of US 71 through the state between Interstate 30 and Interstate 40.

Northern Arkansas segment and Bella Vista Bypass[edit]

 Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stands at a podium flanked by Arkansas state officials and addresses those attending the groundbreaking with a large dump truck in the background
Ray LaHood (center) addresses attendees at the Bella Vista Bypass groundbreaking ceremony on June 8, 2011
New location of Highway 72 near Hiwasse, Arkansas, in order to accommodate an interchange with the future Bella Vista Bypass (to the right)

North of I-40, Interstate 49 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. Motorists 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".[25]

On August 11, 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced $10 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funding to construct a portion 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.[26] The following year, the segment between Highway 72 north and County Road 34 was let.[27] As of March 2014, AHTD anticipates completion of this first segment between Highway 72 north and Highway 72 south in spring 2014, and the next section in fall 2014.[28]

Following the passing of a ten-year half-cent sales tax measure in 2012, AHTD had acquired sufficient additional revenue to fund the southbound half of the Bella Vista Bypass without tolls.[29] Since design work had been completed prior to passing the measure, AHTD was able to let the segment between Highway 72 and US 71B in February 2014 as the first job of the Connecting Arkansas Program.[30][31] AHTD anticipates completion of this project in 2016.[28]

The only Arkansas projects remaining for a fully operational two-lane bypass are between County Road 34/Missouri state line and a roundabout connector with US 71B. Both of these projects are listed as TBD by AHTD.[28] Design work is complete for the roadway project, and is anticipated to be complete in 2015 for the interchange. Construction of the roadway is anticipated to be complete in 2017, assuming a one-year delay related to Missouri funding.[32] Construction on the interchange is tentatively scheduled to be complete in 2018.[32] Missouri DOT is responsible for a segment between the Missouri state line and I-49, with no clear path to funding at present. The Bella Vista Bypass is now on hold again because on August 5, 2014, an amendment bill intended to raise the sales tax failed at the ballot box. 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.[33]


North of Texarkana, Interstate 49 will briefly venture into Texas for about 5 miles before turning northwest and crossing the Red River to reenter Arkansas. How the mileposts and the exits will be numbered once the Interstate returns to Arkansas have yet to be determined.[34]

Bella Vista Bypass in Missouri[edit]

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."[35] 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.[36] A ballot initiative was defeated in August 2014 in Missouri, meaning funds will not be forthcoming soon.[33]

Future northern terminus of I-49 at the junction with I-70 in Kansas City, Missouri

In the near Future Interstate 49 will end at I-70; But for right now it ends at 190.0 mile marker between I-435 and Bannister Road.

Major intersections[edit]

Louisiana (southern segment)
I‑10 / US 167 in Lafayette (southern terminus)
US 190 in Opelousas
US 167 north of Opelousas
US 71 / US 167 in Alexandria
US 71 / US 165 in Alexandria
US 371 south of Evelyn
US 84 east of Mansfield
LA 3132 in Shreveport
I‑20 in Shreveport (northern terminus)
Louisiana (northern segment)
I‑220 in Shreveport (southern terminus)
LA 168 in Ida (northern terminus)
Arkansas (southern segment and a Connection to Future I-369)
US 71 in Doddridge (southern terminus)
AR 151 in Texarkana
US 82 in Texarkana
I-30 in Texarkana
US 59 near Texarkana (northern terminus)
I-369 in Texarkana
Arkansas (northern segment)
US 71 in Fort Smith (future temporary southern terminus to be determined)
AR 22 / AR 255 in Barling (future temporary northern terminus to be determined)
I-40 / US 71 in Alma (current southern terminus)
US 62 in Fayetteville
US 412 in Springdale
US 62 in Rogers
US 71B / US 71 in Bella Vista (current northern terminus)
AR 72 in Hiwasse
AR 72 in Gravette
County Road 34 in Benton (future northern terminus)
Route 90 in Pineville (future southern terminus to be determined)
US 71 in Pineville (current southern terminus)
I-44 in Joplin
I-435 / I-470 / US 50 / US 71 in Kansas City (current northern terminus)
I-670 / I-70 / I-35 / US 71 / US 40 in Kansas City (future northern terminus to be determined)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff (December 31, 2014). "Table 1: Main Routes of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System Of Interstate and Defense Highways as of December 31, 2014". Route Log and Finder List. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved February 16, 2015. 
  2. ^ Nadeau, Gregory G (March 28, 2014). "Letter Approving I-49 Designation" (PDF) (Letter to Scott E. Bennett). Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Previous Facts of the Day". 50th Anniversary Interstate Highway System. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  4. ^ Kennedy, Wally (May 11, 2007). "Plan Holds 2008 Finish for Range Line Bypass". The Joplin Globe. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  5. ^ Keith, Kevin (September 29, 2007). Report for SCOH (PDF) (Report). Milwaukee, WI: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. [page needed]
  6. ^ "Interstate 49 (Corridors 1 and 37)". AARoads. June 9, 2002. Retrieved November 29, 2012. [unreliable source?]
  7. ^ "US 71 from Kansas City to Joplin to become Interstate 49". Kansas City Star. September 2, 2012. [dead link]
  8. ^ a b Southwest District Office. "New I-49 Signs Being Installed Along US 71" (Press release). Missouri Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 23, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Missouri Gateway to Bella Vista Bypass Scrapped". Joplin Independent. October 15, 2007. 
  10. ^ Community Relations Office (August 4, 2010). "I-49 Coming to Missouri" (Press release). Missouri Department of Transportation. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  11. ^ Porter, Steve (July 28, 2009). "Bruce R. Watkins Drive Is Smoother Months Ahead of Schedule" (Press release). Missouri Department of Transportation. 
  12. ^ "Kansas City PD Top 20 Crash Sites, 2010" (PDF). Kansas City, MO: KMBC-TV. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Ortega, Tony (May 26, 2005). "Road Rage". The Pitch (Kansas City, MO). Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  15. ^ "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. 
  16. ^ "Kansas City's Vital Link" (PDF). Pathways (Missouri Department of Transportation). Fall 2001. 
  17. ^ "I-49 North". Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Whatley, Jeff (May 13, 2013). "Highway 549 Opens to Traffic in Texarkana Wednesday" (PDF) (Press release). Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  20. ^ State Highway Map (PDF) (Map). Cartography by Planning and Research Division. Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. 2013. [full citation needed]
  21. ^ "Interstate 49 Northbound (Shreveport Vicinity)". Louisiana @ SouthEastRoads. February 27, 2004. Retrieved January 28, 2013. [self-published source]
  22. ^ a b "I-49 Inner-City Connector-Shreveport". I-49 Inner-City Connector-Shreveport. Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  23. ^ "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. 
  24. ^ Russell, Tony (March 21, 2013). "Paving Begins on Chaffee Crossing Stretch of I-49". Fort Smith, AR: KHBS-TV. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  25. ^ Staff (August 23, 2010). "Highway 71: Bella Vista Bypass" (PDF). TIGER II Discretionary Grant Program 2010. Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. 
  26. ^ "U.S. Department of Transportation, Arkansas Agreement Clears Way for Construction on Bella Vista Bypass" (Press release). Federal Highway Administration. August 11, 2010. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Route 71, Section 19, Hwy. 72 North-Co. Rd. 34 (B.V. Bypass) (F)". Construction Documents. Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. March 7, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  28. ^ a b c Bennett, Scott (March 5, 2014). "AHTD Presentation to ASCE Day of Training" (PDF). Fayetteville, AR: Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  29. ^ Smith, Jamie (April 9, 2013). "Half-Cent Sales Tax Projects Coming into Fruition". The City Wire. Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Route 71, Section 19, Hwy. 71B-Hwy. 72 South (Bella Vista Bypass) (S)" (PDF). Construction Documents. Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Bids opened for next phase of Bella Vista Bypass". Little Rock, AR: KTHV. February 26, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  32. ^ a b "Highway 71: Benton County". Connecting Arkansas Program. Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. February 26, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  33. ^ a b Moritz, Rob (September 12, 2013). "Highway Commission Postpones Part Of Bella Vista Bypass Project". The Southwest Times Record. Fort Smith, AR. Arkansas News Bureau. Retrieved November 29, 2013. 
  34. ^ State Highway Map (PDF) (Map). Cartography by Planning and Research Division. Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. 2012. 
  35. ^ "US 71 Highway to become I-49 on Wednesday". Kansas City, MO: KMBC-TV. December 11, 2012. 
  36. ^ Kargas, Marissa; Leach, Sean (September 12, 2013). "Bella Vista Bypass Hits $25M Bump in the Road". NWA Homepage. Retrieved November 29, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Bing