By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday approved an amendment to the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan of the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization (JATSO) to rebuild the interchange on Interstate 44 at Missouri highways 43 and 86.
The interchange is north of the construction of the new Mercy Hospital Joplin, which sits on 100 acres at the southeast corner of the interchange.
The new hospital is replacing St. John’s Regional Medical Center, which was destroyed by the May 22 tornado. It is to be completed within three years.
“I’m pleased to support this important infrastructure project in Joplin that will help create jobs and provide a foundation for the long-term recovery and success of the city,” Nixon said. “The state of Missouri continues to stand with the people of Joplin as we approach the one-year anniversary of that tragic evening in May.”
Mercy Health System is funding the interchange project with private dollars.
Dan Salisbury, assistant district engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the project has an estimated price tag of $5 million.
A diamond-type interchange will be constructed on the south side of the interstate, Salisbury said. The ramps on the south of the interstate will be moved closer to the interstate, creating a greater distance between the interstate and East 50th Street, where a roundabout is to be constructed.
“Any large project on the state system, even if it is funded with private dollars, needs to be listed on the transportation improvement program from that area. This project is large enough to be considered in that way,’’ said Salisbury.
The governor, he said, has the authority to approve amendments to the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan, also known as the STIP