Road construction on U.S. 56 between Great Bend and Ellinwood is expected to last a couple months. During that span, more and more motorists are anticipated to use the parallel East Barton County Road as a detour.
That potential for increased traffic has Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir concerned. He foresees a deluge of complaints from residents along the dirt township road about dust and the possibility of a spike in wrecks.
Heeding the sheriff’s warning, the Barton County Commission Monday morning voted to restrict the stretch to local traffic only. County Road and Bridge Department personnel will post signs noting this.
“This gives us a tool,” Bellendir said. If the county had not taken the action, the sheriff would have no muscle to curb excess use.
Bellendir said drivers who live in the area or have business there will not be restricted. His deputies might not catch all outside traffic, but this will help.
“This is proactive,” said Commissioner Jennifer Schartz, adding it is something being done before the problem arises. “This is a step we can take.”
However, not everyone on the commission supported the idea. Commissioner Alicia Straub questioned limiting traffic because it was merely an inconvenience to residents.
“Every tax payer pays for that road,” she said. So, it is not fair to keep them from using it.
In response to a question from Straub, Bellendir said about 60 percent of the reason for posting the road is based on complaints and 40 percent on the safety hazard factor.
In the end, the commission approved the action. Straub was the lone nay vote.
The restriction will end once the road work on the highway is completed.