Shell Knob bridge reopens to two-lane traffic

Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Photo by Josh Boley Dignitaries attend ceremony Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick (R) and State Sen. David Sater (R) accompany Gaye Taylor-Moss as she cuts the ribbon signifying the re-opening the Route 39 bridge. Taylor-Moss is the widow of the late Senator Larry Taylor in whose memory and honor the Route 39 bridge was dedicated a number of years ago.

The Shell Knob Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting May 22 for the reopening of the Route 39 bridge that spans Table Rock Lake. The event was attended by State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick (R), State Sen. David Sater (R), community leaders and officials with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

According to Shell Knob Chamber of Commerce Director Karen Elsey, construction on the bridge started Sept. 4, 2012, and was completed on May 20. The 1,440-foot bridge, originally built in 1958, was in need of repair and repainting.

Burt Pitchford, MoDOT's Southwest District senior construction inspector, explained that some of the steel under the bridge had deteriorated and repairs to a wind expansion device were needed.

Photo by Josh Boley A day to celebrate Becky Balz, MoDOT Southwest District engineer, left, and Shell Knob Chamber of Commerce Director Karen Elsey both spoke to the crowd during last week's ribbon cutting at the newly reopened Route 39 bridge.

"The bridge is good, and I know people are concerned about not painting the whole thing, but we could only afford to paint the most important part as far as the structure goes," Pitchford said. "A lot of it is aesthetics and it's rusty, but it probably won't get much worse."

The $5.4 million bridge project included repairing the damaged steel, installing a new deck, sand blasting the old lead paint from the structure and finishing with a three-coat repaint, Pitchford said.

Becky Balz, engineer for MoDOT's Southwest District, spoke to those in attendance about the important role the bridge plays in the Shell Knob community. She thanked area residents for their patience while the project was being completed, and she also expressed her appreciation for the crew who worked on the bridge.

Photo by Josh Boley Bridge gets green light The view of the Route 39 bridge in Shell Knob looking south to north over the completed deck.

"We are glad to have completed the rehabilitation of the Route 39 bridge over Table Rock Lake," said Balz. "And we are glad to get the job done before Memorial Day weekend, like we promised. We knew that finishing this work before tourists came calling was extremely important to Shell Knob and Barry County.

According to Balz, it was originally proposed to close the bridge completely for 45 days, but when it was determined the project couldn't be completed that quickly, the decision was made early to repair the bridge during the off-season and only close one lane at a time.

"If we shut the bridge down, it's a 52-mile detour," Balz added. "That is the importance of the bridge to this community."

Although keeping one lane open was better than closing the bridge, there were still some challenges posed by the traffic slow down, according to local landscaper Brad Hayes.

"From one side of the bridge to the other, we live on the south side," said Hayes. "If you wanted to get into town, you had to make a special allotment of 15 minutes per trip in case you caught the red light. If you caught the green light, you were on time."

Hayes said there were also some concerns about the economic impact for the businesses on the south side of the bridge at the beginning of the project.

"Now that the holidays are here . . . the bridge is open, so hopefully everybody can get back to normal living again," Hayes said.

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