MoDOT, District 8, Springfield -- The new Route 66-themed I-44 Conway Welcome Center at Mile Marker 111 west of Conway is scheduled to open on Monday, May 4, with a grand opening ceremony, the Missouri Department of Transportation said.
The Welcome Center will open at 11 a.m. on both the eastbound and westbound sides of I-44, with a dedication planned for 1 p.m. on the eastbound side. Classic cars and trucks will be lined up for viewing. A Route 66 historian will speak. The Conway School choir and pep band will perform.
Tours of the new facilities will be available between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The I-44 Conway Rest Area was closed on June 2, 2008, and the old buildings were razed. Over the past 11 months, new larger buildings were built, the parking areas expanded and other improvements made to convert the rest area into a welcome center for travelers along I-44.
The Route 66 theme was chosen because of continued interest in the history and lore of old U.S. 66 among southwest Missouri residents and visitors from all over the United States and the world. I-44 through Missouri replaced the one-time "Mother Road" and roughly parallels the old highway. Old Route 66 near the Welcome Center is now Laclede County Route W and Laclede/Webster County Route CC.
Emphasizing convenience, safety and environmental responsiblity, the Conway facility will have:
* Increased restroom facilities for men and for women along with separate family restrooms. The restrooms will feature automatic sinks and toilets to conserve water.
* 75 truck parking spaces on each side of I-44 -- about triple the old capacity. Recycled asphalt was used for the car parking area.
* Picnic shelters with Route 66-related "storefronts," including a barber shop and a diner.
* A playground with slides and climbing equipment. Padding under the playground equipment comes from ground up automotive tires.
* A pet walk area with waste disposal containers.
* Better lighting for the parking lots and park area.
* 1950s-era neon welcome signs in front of the main building on each side.
* An information area with a Route 66 history display inside each main building near the restrooms and vending machines. The counter can be staffed to provide tourist information.
* Small wind turbines to power lights over the counters in the information areas.
* Ground source heat pump heating and air conditioning system and a modern wastewater treatment plant.
The prime contractor is Emery Sapp and Sons of Columbia.
The cost is $10.8 million in federal funds allocated toward highway system enhancement . Those funds cannot be spent directly on roads.