Drive around town and look for certain signs of progress. They stick up in the air and are called cranes. They mean something substantial is being built, creating paychecks today and an investment in  tomorrow.

Consider some of the more prominent projects just in Independence:

• Jackson Drive, east of Centerpoint Medical Center. The current work goes from 37th Terrace to R.D. Mize Road (near the old airport), and the four-lane road should be done by late spring. After that, the road will be pushed north to the Prairie Landing subdivision, then to Holke Road, then to Missouri 78. That should aid development in eastern Independence.

• Truman Road, widened to four lanes, from Missouri 291 to Vista Drive. It’s almost done.

• Santa Fe and McCoy, south from 23rd Street to about Santa Fe Park, has been in a badly needed widening-and-upgrading project for months. The city says it’s 80 percent complete. Other than this road, there’s not much of a straight shot north and south between Noland and Crysler, so this project will help greatly.

More is in the works: added turn lanes at 23rd and Noland, a new U.S. 24 bridge over the train tracks on the west side of Fairmount, even a widening of 39th Street from Noland to Crysler (like the widening of 39th from Noland to Lee’s Summit Road a couple of years ago).

And don’t forget projects such as the Adams Dairy Landing retail development in Blue Springs and the arena under construction at Interstate 70 and M-291 in Independence, both set to open in 2009. Oak Grove’s main street is in the midst of a major upgrade. All add to growth and development.

It’s a funny thing. Times are tight, yet the government is about to go way deeper into debt to spend on public works, among other things, to get the economy moving. Who knows how much of that money will get to Eastern Jackson County or when, but there’s a backlog of roads, bridges, sewers and sidewalks needing attention? It’ll make for a better place to live.