POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- The Mid-America Express Event, celebrating the completion of four lanes of Highway 67 from Fredericktown, Mo., to Poplar Bluff, Mo., made its way down the highway Friday, wrapping up with a celebration at First Community Bank in Poplar Bluff. Local and state officials also gathered earlier in the day in Fredericktown and Greenville, Mo., for celebrations.
U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson said the highway's completion, before the deadline and under budget, is a testament to many of the people involved.
"The U.S. Congress could learn a whole lot from how we built Highway 67," she said. "Without the selflessness of the people to tax themselves ... this wouldn't have happened."
Missouri Department of Transportation director Kevin Keith praised area residents and leaders for achieving what was impossible when originally proposed.
"You had the vision ... enough vision in Poplar Bluff to tax yourselves for a road that's not in your town," he said.
The expansion will help "long-term economic development" in Poplar Bluff, according to Keith.
State Rep. Todd Richardson said his father remembered when U.S. 67 was a gravel road, and some day he will share similar stories with his son. "I'll be telling my son Sawyer what Poplar Bluff was like before we had a four-lane," he said.
Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce president Steve Halter was master of ceremonies for the event. Tom Schulte, representing U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission chairwoman Grace Nichols, Butler County Presiding Commissioner Ed Strenfel and Lou DellOrco, chief of the operations division for the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also addressed the crowd. The corps secured more than $16 million in funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the stimulus package, and used that money to help fund the highway project near Greenville.
Former Greenville mayor Carol Rainwater attended both the Greenville and Poplar Bluff events and said after the Poplar Bluff event the improvements will greatly benefit his city.
"Traffic will increase and therefore business will increase," he said. "I think it's great."
Poplar Bluff, Mo.