It was a day 54 years in the making, but on Monday, ground was broken on a second interchange on Interstate 44 for the City of Marshfield.
The line of gold shovels seemed to stretch up North Marshall Street all the way to Lebanon as the many people who had a hand in making the day happen lined up to toss the first symbolic shovelfuls of dirt.
Michael Pace, commissioner of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, said that his records date the project back to 1965 — "So it's been a long time coming," he said.
Marshfield Mayor Robert Williams served as host for the dignitaries and guests at the groundbreaking, and his pride in the accomplishment was evident.
"It is the work of multiple partnerships, with help of our elected state officials … who had Marshfield as their mission," Williams acknowledged.
But he singled out one group in particular for thanks and praise, and that was the Marshfield community, who provided funding for the project by approving a local sales tax.
"Primarily as mayor I want to thank the Marshfield community," he said. "Partnerships are great — you’ve got to have them. Plans are important. But nothing happens without money."
And within all of the festivities of embarking on construction of Marshfield’s second interchange, one comment by the mayor may have been buried: "I would be remiss if I did not announce the kickoff of our effort for a third interchange for the community of Marshfield," he said.
Knowing what community leaders know now, it's likely that the third I-44 interchange will take way less than 65 years to come to fruition, he added.
Several people who were critical to the success of the interchange project were given a chance to speak.
Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe kicked off the remarks. "When communities come together to build a partnership, projects like these happen," he said.
He praised state officials, past and present, for their hard work. Of former Missouri Representative Lyndall Fraker and current Missouri Senator Mike Cunningham, Kehoe said, "They just absolutely would never stop." The same is true for current Missouri Representatives Hannah Kelly and John Black. "They have done a great job of continuing with that mission," he said.
Senator Cunningham spoke after Kehoe, and he returned the lieutenant governor’s praise. "His dedication to the state is just unbelievable," Cunningham said.
Cunningham noted that the Marshfield project is the only overpass being built in the State of Missouri this year, and he also credited the community.
"The community is just incredible," he said. "If there's a need here, the community just steps up."
Rep. Hannah Kelly spoke up to say that the interchange is a testament to how service creates outcomes, and to an understanding that Fraker and Black have passed down to her about maintaining a strong local focus: "Building home base is what matters," she said.
Representative John Black continued the theme of the importance of working together. "I have found that cooperation, working together, is what gets things done for the folks," he said.
Black praised the Marshfield community for providing a local match that was significantly more than the normal match for such a project. He also praised MoDOT for being innovative. "They demonstrated that here and they’ll demonstrate that on other projects," he said.
Former Missouri Representative Lyndall Fraker took a trip down memory lane during his remarks. He recalled that when he was young, there were four locations where vehicles could cross the interstate at stop signs. One was marked with a "Welcome to Marshfield" neon sign with an arrow pointing toward the town.
The reason it took so long to get the interchange is that no one could decide on the best place for it to be placed, Fraker said.
"They let perfect be the evil of good," he said. "There's not a perfect location — we know that."
Paul Ipock, president of the Webster County Commission, stated that he had been in office for 21 years, and the second interchange had been a hope the whole time.
"I woke up at 5 o’clock this morning thinking about things to say," he said. "Why would you folks want to listen to me talk when we could be getting started on the overpass?"
The ceremonial groundbreaking happened shortly after — and then, after dignitaries were afforded a chance to head home, the heavy equipment that had been parked in the background was started up and began the real work of making way for a brand new overpass.