U.S. 54/400 opening soon in Pratt County

Staff Writer
SJ News Online
State and local officials continue to divert traffic west of Pratt on U.S. Highway 54, as cleanup is underway for butane pipeline leak.

U.S. Highway 54/400 remains closed between Pratt and Greensburg as of noon on Thursday, January 30, but could be reopened for all traffic by evening of same day, according to Mid-American Pipeline, aka Enterprise Products Partners spokesman Rick Rainey.
"We have made good progress on cleaning up the site where a butane leak in the pipeline was discovered Sunday evening," Rainey said. "The site is secure and we are finalizing cleanup details in order to make the needed repairs."
Rainey confirmed there had been a rupture in the pipeline north of the highway but there were no explosions, no butane lake, no fire and not injuries as a result of the leak. He said the investigation of what happened and what caused the leak is ongoing and there were no details to release at this time.
Rainey said his company continues to work in cooperation with Pratt County Law Enforcement, as the highway is still closed to all traffic between 50th and 80th Avenues.
Tim Branscom, Pratt Emergency Management Director, said Pratt County Road Department is helping work traffic at the Cullison barricades, while KDOT and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks officers continue to turn commercial traffic around to find alternate routes at the cement mixing plant just west of Skyline Schools at 30th Avenue west of Pratt.
Branscom said Pratt County was not longer in charge of decisions made regarding the butane leak in the cross-country pipeline as the entire project had moved from a response situation to cleanup mode.
In a press release, on Wednesday, Jan. 29, Branscom said pipeline crews continue to clean up areas of concern that are very close to the highway on the north side.
"Large vehicles are still being diverted north of Pratt to Highway 50 then west," Branscom said. "Local and smaller vehicles may use old 54 highway west of Skyline and travel to Cullison, then get up on the new highway 54 and head west."
Union Pacific Railroad made an independent decision to resume running trains on tracks between Greensburg and through Pratt, with activity that started Wednesday evening.
Rainey state there is no longer a threat to those living in the area and electrical power had been restored to all residents who had previously been evacuated and shut off.
"We are so appreciative of the community's patience during this whole process," Rainey said. "Our top priority has always been the safety of the people, our workers and the environment. It has been so good to work with emergency management, local and state law enforcement in that area. We so appreciate their support and the group effort to get this situation under control and safely resolved."
Kansas Department of Transportation Pratt Area Superintendent Gene Watts said the road closure between Pratt and Greensburg had caused several heated complaints from motorists trying to get through the road blocks.
"We are doing the best we can to serve them, keep them safe in their travels," Watts said, in a news release from KDOT.
The U.S. 54 stretch remains closed as of 2 p.m. Thursday.