Opening today of interchange to ease congestion on U.S. 71 in Southland

Drivers on U.S. 71 in the Southland will see congestion ease as a series of interchange improvements are completed in the coming months.

The first one at U.S. 71 and 163rd Street in Belton will be fully opened after a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. today. The full opening of the interchange should help relieve some of the traffic pressures at Missouri 58 between Belton and Raymore, highway officials said.

While the interchange will be fully open, there still is more concrete work to be done and traffic signals need to be installed.

The $11 million interchange has been under construction since summer 2008.

Meanwhile, officials with the Missouri Department of Transportation said they expect two other interchanges in the U.S. 71 corridor to open in the next year. A rebuilt interchange at Missouri 150 and U.S. 71 should open by May. A new interchange at U.S. 71 and North Cass Parkway is expected to open by summer.

All the interchange work has caused many traffic tie-ups on the vital north-south corridor, which moves commuters between downtown and southern parts of the area.