CEDAR BLUFF STATE PARK — A portion of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway in Trego County will be closed until the bridge spanning the Cedar Bluff Reservoir spillway can be replaced next year, but lake-goers can still find their way to their favorite spots.
The Kansas Department of Transportation announced in a news release Wednesday morning that deficiencies in the bridge on K-147 highway prompted the emergency closure.
District engineer Jeff Stewart, of KDOT’s Norton office, said the agency has been monitoring the stress on the bridge for a couple of years.
“We routinely inspect all of our bridges, and there have been some of these stresses within the bridge that have caused some things to happen, like breaking some bolts. Those steel bridges are bolted together. Some of those bolts have been breaking for, I’m going to say, a couple of years. They caused us to monitor this bridge more closely,” he said Wednesday.
Stewart explained bridges carry a “dead load”— the weight of the bridge itself — and a “live load” — the traffic over the bridge.
“Our consultant did some modeling on how high those stresses would be with live loads and they were not acceptable. We were not comfortable with those loads,” he said.
Stewart said KDOT considered repairing the bridge and even sought bids for the work.
“The repair costs were so high that we shelved that and we started looking at replacement, probably within the last year, so it’s not like we’re starting from scratch on this bridge replacement plan, but now we’re expediting that,” he said.
Funds for the replacement are in KDOT’s budget, he said.
Kathy Albert, director of WaKeeney Travel and Tourism, said the closure will mostly affect those coming from the south. KDOT recommends Interstate 70, US-283 highway and K-4 highway as a detour, but the highway is closed after the entrance to the north shore of the state park.
“For people coming off I-70, they can still get to the majority of what they want to get to,” she said.
The north shore of the park contains the most campgrounds, the most developed campgrounds and cabins, as well as the state park offices, she said. The south shore park contains primitive camping spots.
“So it’s just the people from the south that are coming up, or people that want to go back and forth between the north shore and the south shore” that will be affected, she said.
Jana Comer, manager at Sport Haven, a convenience and marine supply store located on K-147 just across from the north shore park entrance, said while the timing isn’t great, closing the highway is necessary for public safety.
The business and the lake will still be accessible, but it will just take a bit longer, she said.
“Most of the die-hard people that come out here, the local people from the north side know how to definitely get to us, and all the guys from the south, a lot of people have been coming here so long that they know the extra ways around,” she said.
Albert noted that Trego County Road S, which intersects with K-147 just south of the Emanuel Church, is a good gravel road between K-147 and US-283 for those wanting to access the south shore.
Comer said visitors to the lake should plan for more time and remember why they’re there.
“Unfortunately it’s bad timing, but we’re here for vacations and run-around time," she said. "It’s not like we’re a hospital that you have to get to the quickest way.
“I just think everybody needs to take a little more time to make concessions to get here the way that’s the safest and remember we’re all here to have fun."
Updated 4 p.m. with additional information.