The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

December 12, 2012

Newly unveiled I-49 seen as road to ‘opportunity’

JOPLIN, Mo. — David and Julie Holloway remember when traveling from McDonald County to Joplin took an hour or more along U.S. Highway 71.

Passing was irritatingly impossible, getting caught behind slow-moving farm vehicles was irritatingly easy, and failing to slow down through Goodman risked another irritant: a speeding ticket.

Driving through Pineville, Anderson and Neosho meant stopping, which was usually a hassle, but it at least had the virtue of taking travelers by the Dairy Queen in Anderson.

“When we were dating, we had to go through each town,” David Holloway recalled Wednesday.

For years near Goodman, a weathered plywood sign kept tally of traffic fatalities along that stretch of Highway 71 and begged for improvements.

Julie Holloway herself was in an accident on Highway 71, she said.

She had recently graduated from Missouri Southern State University and was carpooling to a teaching job in Carthage with other educators when their vehicle was rear-ended by a truck rig. No one was hurt, but she remembers the risks that the former highway entailed. In fact, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation, the fatality rate is 60 percent lower on interstates compared with the rate on the rest of the federal highway system, and the injury rate is 70 percent lower.

Over the years, the Holloways watched the gradual leg-by-leg projects along the highway, as towns were bypassed, access was limited and minutes of travel time were cut with each new segment.

It all culminated Wednesday with the conversion of U.S. Highway 71 into Interstate 49 from Pineville to Kansas City.

In fact, when Julie Holloway left for work as assistant principal at Carl Junction High School on Wednesday morning, she took U.S. Highway 71; when she returned to her home near Tiff City on Wednesday afternoon, she took I-49, since the new interstate shields were uncovered by highway crews during the day.

“It’s a smooth, carefree drive,” she said.

The improvements have knocked 20 or 30 minutes off her drive time and, more importantly, have made the commute safer. The improvements, too, opened a door for her.

“I wouldn’t have even been able to consider Carl (Junction) as a job opportunity” without the upgrades, she said.

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