COLUMBIA — Rep. Chris Kelly cut the ribbon to mark the completion of U.S. 63 and Route H's diamond interchange Friday afternoon.
The crowd chanted in unison, "Let's open this road, smile and cut."
The ceremony was the culmination of not just the interchange but of several projects along U.S. 63 and Route H, including the construction of southbound lanes and four J-turns. The project began in August 2011.
Speakers at the ceremony praised the project and anticipated its benefits.
First, the interchange will address safety concerns along Route H, where 16-year-old Amanda Nowlin died in a collision in 2007. It will also make access to the airport safer.
The J-turns are also supposed to improve safety by helping to prevent right-angle collisions, but the Missouri Department of Transportation's district engineer David Silvester acknowledged the public's lukewarm response.
"Give them some time, they'll grow on you and you'll find they're a lot safer," Silvester said.
Another benefit of the interchange is that it will facilitate business growth in the area, particularly in Ashland, the town's Mayor Michael Jackson said.
After more than a year of orange cones and detours, the interchange will finally get a chance to prove its worth.
Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.