Interstate highways 70 and 44 aren’t the only limited access freeways in Missouri that need upgrades. Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said there are multiple needs along all the interstates that pass through the Show-Me State and the rest of the United States.

“The system has been underfunded for decades,” McKenna told Missourinet. “We’re at a point right now where we’re actually trending in the right direction for the first time in decades, and the public needs to be aware of that.”

McKenna said, though, that improving other interstates in Missouri does not mean they would all be expanded to six lanes. It just means that they will be upgraded to current engineering standards, as opposed to those used in the 1950’s and 60’s.

“All of this interstate system was built, you know, over the decades and all of it is in need of renewal and replacement,” he said.

Work is set to begin this summer on expanding I-70 to six lanes between Kansas City and St. Louis, and an environmental study will be conducted in hopes of expanding I-44 between St. Louis and the Oklahoma border at Joplin. There are needs on the shorter interstate segments as well.

“We have significant issues with the pavement condition that are presenting on Interstate 35 in the northwestern part of the state,” McKenna said, “and there are very significant competing demands for the conversion of (U.S.) Route 67 in the southeastern part of the state.”

That particular project would involve extending Interstate 57 from Sikeston southwestward into Arkansas. There have also been efforts to pursue extending I-72 across northern Missouri from Hannibal to St. Joseph, but so far they have fallen short of approval.

Within the last decade, the U.S. 71 corridor in western Missouri was upgraded to interstate standards and was designated as Interstate 49. That segment runs from Kansas City into Arkansas, passing through Fayetteville and ending near Fort Smith. Several unconnected segments of I-49 exist in western Arkansas and Louisiana, with plans to eventually connect them. Doing so would provide direct interstate access between Kansas City and New Orleans.

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