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Jeremy Gaston/Herald-Chronicle
Work began last week on a box-culvert replacement on U.S. Highway 56 west of Four Corners. The road is scheduled to be closed through mid-June, routing through traffic though Osage City.

Jeremy Gaston
| Editor

SCRANTON—A bridge replacement project on U.S. Highway 56 between U.S. Highway 75 and Scranton blocked out-of-town customers from conveniently reaching Scranton businesses.

“It has been down a lot,” said Sharon Vawter, manager of Casey’s General Store. “I’ve seen very few people from Burlingame or Osage.”

Employees said project has reduced traffic at the community’s only gas station and convenience store to local customers. The sentiment was shared by CP’s Branding Iron and Saloon, located directly across the street from Casey’s in Scranton’s downtown.

“We haven’t had as much traffic in here,” said Paula Schuler, owner of the restaurant. “The effect was almost immediate, and it’s affecting our business.”

Schuler was caught off guard by the closure, receiving notification by a road sign along U.S. 75.

“I wish we’d have been notified,” she said. “We found out the day before.”

Official notification came days sooner, with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) issuing a press release on March 4, just 10 days before the highway was to close for three months. Notification was published in the subsequent edition of The Herald-Chronicle.

A detour routes drivers through Burlingame to Osage City and then back to U.S. 75 via State Highway 31.

Schuler said the impact could have been softened if they would have had time to notify their out-of-town customers of the closure.

“We have a lot of customers from Topeka,” Schuler said. “They were rerouted though Osage City, and it took them over an hour to get here. They weren’t pleased.”

Schuler estimated between 40 and 50 percent of her customers are from out of town. With no convenient official detour, customers must find their way around, take the long way, or end up elsewhere.

“I talked to KDOT, and they can’t put a detour on dirt road,” Schuler said. “It has to be on a state highway, so we’re kind of at a loss. We’re hoping as it goes on our customers will figure out which way to go and get in here a little bit easier.”

Burlingame businesses, which are accessible by paved roads from four directions, were less affected by the detour.

“It takes my bikers a little longer to get here, but they still come,” said Jeannie Riggs, owner of the Santa Fe Café in downtown Burlingame. “My customers are still getting here.”

Riggs said many of her customers were able to come in from the north on Auburn Road, a paved option that doesn’t exist for Scranton.

Local drivers have had less trouble navigating around the closure, driving dirt roads north and south of Scranton.

“For those of us that know our way around, we can get around without going too far out of the way,” Vawter said. “We know the back roads. We’re not going to waste all that gas.”

According to the original KDOT press release, the scheduled completion date for the $214,227 bridge replacement project is mid-June.