A flashing orange arrow, cones and warning signs greeted motorists starting this week west of Great Bend.
On Monday morning, L&M Contractors of Great Bend began begin repairs to the bridge over the flood control channel, located on West Barton County Road, a project which is expected to take eight or nine weeks, depending on the weather.
County officials warn the bridge will be limited to one lane of traffic having a maximum width of 12 feet. Traffic signals will be used while the repairs are being completed.
The project involves a partnership between Barton County, under whose jurisdiction the bridge falls, and the City of Great Bend, for whom the bridge was built as part of the flood control effort in the 1980s.
In other words, it technically lies outside the city limits. But it makes up an important link between the city and rural areas beyond.
Over the years, the soil has settled around the approaches to the bridge from both east and west, causing bumps. The uneven surface is both inconvenient and potentially dangerous.
Barton County has undertaken a $252,000 effort to make the necessary repairs. The work might have closed it, forcing a detour.
But, the bridge will remain open, thanks to a joint effort between the city and the county. It was determined in July the to local governments would split the cost to keep it passable during the reconstruction.
City Administrator Howard Partington said the price to use traffic lights to alternate the direction of traffic flow would cost an additional $41,000. Since the bridge is equally important to those inside and outside the city limits, the city will cover half the expense, or $20,500.
A detour would have likely taken drivers south in front of Fuller Brush and forced them to turn across two lanes of U.S. 56, said County Administrator Richard Boeckman. This was a dangerous scenario.
This endeavor is an example of city/county cooperation, Partington said. “We work with the county a lot more than people realize.”
The city-built bridge is part of a county-maintained road. It had never been formally brought into the county’s family of 380 other bridges until June 2013.