Sign, sign everywhere a sign

Chad Frey
The Kansan
New state requirements for signing load limits on bridges could cost Butler County a significant amount of money — and has already cost extra funds for KDOT engineering. [GANNETT FILE]

There's changes coming to emergency routes in Butler County — the result of 64 new weight limits to be posted on the county bridges. 

Of those, 49 will be weight restricted for emergency vehicles only, ten will be restricted to truck traffic and emergency vehicles and five restricted to truck traffic only. 

Butler County inspects each bridge about every two years.

If a bridge is not able to meet thresholds, the bridge must be signed with weight limits.

This year, out of the 433 bridges in Butler County 93 were evaluated. Of those, 29 do not require a new weight limit posting. There are 15 not posted that are now require a sign.

And there are 49 that while not requiring a limit for standard trucks, now require a posting for emergency vehicles. In the case of both restrictions being placed on a bridge, a standard three-truck sign will be posted with a second fire truck sign underneath

Prior to approval of the new postings by the Butler County Commission this week, there were 84 weight restricted bridges in the county. 

In 2018 the state Legislature changed weight limits for emergency vehicles — namely firetrucks. Those limits are now larger than standard highway trucks. That created a bit of an issue as well — as federal rules mean all Interstate bridges, and all bridges within one mile of the Interstate system, must be load rated for those vehicles.

"It feels like too much information, for me it is that box," said commissioner Jeff Masterson. "For your emergency responders, for your farmers, it just seems [too much]."

The county road and bridge department consulted with other counties — looking for a less restrictive path to take if possible. 

"We could do away with the special signs, but then we would be posting all of our bridges with three-truck postings," Darryl Lutz, director of public works for Butler County "That messes the farmer up, and the local producers, the oil and gas producers."

The department will be meeting with fire chiefs and EMS staff in the coming weeks to discuss where the new weight restrictions will affect them. 

There is a cost to the county for this work — Butler County estimates the cost at about $150 per sign and each bridge will require a sign on each end. Estimated costs for posting all the new signs needed this year is around $12,000 — $6,000 for signs and at least $2,000 for posts with about $4,000 for labor. 

KDOT is in the fifth year of a multi-year program to load rate local bridges across the state of Kansas. They are using the most current load rating calculation methods available. This year, out of the 433 bridges in Butler County 93 were evaluated. 

The list of bridges needing signage was compiled in December.