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Missouri Highway 71 is now Interstate 49 - KOAM TV 7

Missouri Highway 71 is now Interstate 49

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The official unveiling ceremony was held today in Southwest Missouri to re designate Highway 71 as Interstate 49.

It's a day decades in the making as plans for this interstate started as far back as 1970.

Over that time $313 million has been invested in the infrastructure.

Senator Roy Blunt took part in the big unveiling of the new signage for Interstate 49 today.  Crews added signs to overpasses and exits while others were unwrapped.

Senator Blunt told a large crowd at the temporary East Middle School that putting it in a highway bill as a national priority in 1991 kept the project alive in hard times.

Interstate 49 when completed will create a corridor 1,600 miles through six states connecting Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal highway officials say access to Interstates is the first thing companies asking about when relocating, making it a big boost for economic development.

"That's one of the key features when you as a local community are trying to attract business, you have to have access to transportation," says Victor Mendez, an administrator with the Federal Highway Administration.  "In our country the Interstate system moves a lot of our trade and commerce in a very efficient manner and that's what businesses are looking for."

The Joplin mayor, chamber president and local property owners are excited for the designation for that very reason.

Mendez emphasized the upgrades to the highway to give it Interstate status make it much safer for all drivers as well.

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