"Whatever it takes, we need to do it"

Friday, September 14, 2007

It was only a matter of time before a student was hurt while walking along Highway Y to the Cassville High School campus. The high volume of traffic that travels that highway before and after school combined with the lack of shoulders or sidewalks along the route creates a dangerous situation for any student trying to walk to and from school. Even driving the road before and after school is a scary proposition.

This Monday, a CHS freshman was seriously injured after being hit on Highway Y on his way to school. As of Tuesday, the young man remains in critical condition.

It's sad to think that it might have taken this tragedy to serve as the catalyst for finding a solution to the unsafe traffic situation that exists near our school campuses. By stating this, we are not accusing the R-IV School District or the City of Cassville of any wrongdoing. The two entities have been working on a solution to this problem for a number of years to no avail.

Several options have been suggested but each time the district or the city has run into a roadblock. Two times now, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has rejected the city's grant application to construct an alternate sidewalk away from Highway Y that would link the high school and middle school campuses. MoDOT says the project is a worthy one but that funding is scarce. Maybe this accident will get MoDOT's attention and motivate them to find funding for the sidewalk project.

Another hitch in the process is obtaining property owners' approval to run a sidewalk through their land. In the past, a few individuals have been uncooperative and declined requests to sell a piece of their property to the school for a walkway between campuses. This is their right, but we wish a compromise could be found. Again, maybe this accident will soften hearts and encourage citizens to work together for the safety of our children.

We also know that last year, local businessman Phil Hutchens approached MoDOT about using leftover funding to widen Highway Y and add shoulders. Again, MoDOT denied this request and left the city and school districts without options. Because Highway Y is a state-maintained highway, the city has no power to make changes to the roadway. Any road improvements, even safety enhancements, must receive approval from MoDOT first.

On a very positive note, both Cassville Mayor Tracy Holle and Superintendent Jim Orrell are determined to find a solution before any other student gets hurt. The school is already in the process of trying to get a new road constructed off of Partridge Drive that would help alleviate some of the congested traffic problems on Highway Y. The district will also be resuming talks with area property owners about identifying an alternate walking route away from the traffic. Citizens who would like to be part of the solution and have some ideas on the issue are encouraged to contact Holle who will be working with the school on safety improvements. All input will be graciously accepted, according to Holle.

Ultimately, it will take the support of the entire community to get something done, and to quote the mayor, "Whatever it takes, we need to do it."