Shell Knob bridge lighting project discussed

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Although no official committees have been established at this time, Shell Knob community members are beginning to discuss options that could be used to fund a lighting project for the bridge on Highway 39.

"I have had members of the Shell Knob community approach me about lighting the bridge," said Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, who lives and owns a business in Shell Knob. "I decided to look into options for getting that accomplished."

On April 15, Fitzpatrick received an email from Frank Miller, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Southwest District planning manager, which outlined some options for funding the proposed project.

"In the past, a project like this would have been eligible for the Transportation Enhancement funding program," said Miller. "This federal program funded sidewalks, bike paths and roadway beautification improvements, including decorative bridge lighting.

"Congress recently changed the program so that beautification improvements are no longer eligible for these funds," continued Miller. "Even under the old rules, funding a project like this would have been a challenge. We work with a committee of local officials to award these funds, and this committee has tended to favor sidewalk and trail projects over beautification projects."

Over the last five years, only two minor injury crashes and seven property damage accidents have been documented on the bridge in Shell Knob. Miller said the severity and number of crashes was "not indicative of a safety problem" that would make the proposed project eligible for safety funding.

"I contacted the Southwest Missouri Council of Governments (SMCOG) in Springfield because this organization works with various types of state and federal grant funding programs," said Miller. "Unfortunately, they were not aware of any programs that can fund a bridge lighting project, but they will continue checking. At this point, they are focused on funding for tourism and economic development."

Miller said that economic development funding could be available through Carroll County, Ark., Electric Cooperative, which serves the Shell Knob area.

"There is an option for funding this project with local funds, a Transportation Development District (TDD)," said Miller. "The community could set up a sales tax or property tax district to fund bridge lighting.

"One interesting aspect of this is that because Shell Knob is not incorporated, a Shell Knob Transportation Development District could also be used to address other local transportation needs and concerns, such as local street resurfacing or intersection improvements, since there is no local municipality formed to do so," added Miller.

Fitzpatrick shared the information he received from Miller with the Shell Knob Chamber of Commerce.

"Personally, I would love to see the bridge lighted, but I would not support the creation of a TDD to achieve that," said Fitzpatrick. "Research needs to be done to determine what type of lighting, how much lighting and the cost of the project. Once that information has been gathered, we can explore our options further and determine whether or not there is a way forward.

"The bridge in Shell Knob has been, for quite some time, the centerpiece of marketing efforts in the community," continued Fitzpatrick. "I think there is certainly economic merit to lighting the bridge, as it would highlight other great things about Shell Knob and Table Rock Lake and could potentially drive increased tourism to the area."

Fitzpatrick said he planned to encourage the Shell Knob Chamber to appoint a committee of business people and interested citizens to gather information on the proposed project.

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