Construction of I-49 began in 1981 between Opelousas and the small town of Washington. This segment joined the portion running concurrent with US 167, an existing limited-access highway, and was completed by 1983. By the following year, virtually all remaining rural portions of the route were under construction, and 95% of this mileage was completed and opened to traffic between late 1987 and late 1989. The remaining portions running through the urban centers of Alexandria and Shreveport required a much greater expenditure of time and funding. The entire length of the 212-mile (341 km) road was completed on May 1, 1996 with the opening of a 16.6-mile (26.7 km) section in downtown Alexandria named the Martin Luther King Jr. Highway. The total cost of I-49’s construction was about $1.38 billion.