By Wally Kennedy
Construction of a new interchange at Interstate 44 and Prigmore Avenue to serve the Crossroads Center Business and Distribution Park was added Thursday to the Transportation Improvement Program for Southwest Missouri.
The approval by the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization Policy Board, during a meeting at Joplin City Hall, sets the stage for work on the project to begin in July with the acquisition of right of way at County Road 190 and Prigmore Avenue.
Dan Salisbury, assistant head engineer of the Southwest District of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the project will be presented to the Federal Highway Administration for its approval next Tuesday. He said federal officials are receptive to the proposal and that it is likely the project will get the official green light in about two to three weeks.
The proposal will be explained to local residents by MoDOT representatives during a public meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, at the Joplin School District Administration Building at 3901 E. 32nd St.
Salisbury said not every design detail will be complete by that meeting. But residents will be able to get a clear picture of what is envisioned, he said.
Work on the $10 million project is set to begin in the summer of 2015. The project will be completed in the fall of 2015.
The opening will coincide with completion of construction of the Heartland Pet Foods Manufacturing plant, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Blue Buffalo Co. Ground for the $85 million plant was broken last October. The plant will eventually employ up to 150 people, producing 30 million pounds of pet food a month.
A factor in the company’s decision to build the plant in Joplin was a promise by MoDOT to construct a new interchange on Interstate 44 to serve the Crossroads park. It is estimated 85 trucks will visit the plant daily.
MoDOT had considered building the interchange at County Road 180 because of County Road 190’s proximity to the Interstate 44-Interstate 49 interchange. The department feared that federal highway officials would object to two interchanges being so close together.
Local property owners protested the County Road 180 location because it would disrupt too many households along the road.
Also in the hopper for improvement is the intersection of highways 171 and 43 in Airport Drive where a roundabout is planned. Construction is to take place in 2014.