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Highway closure had big impact on Greensburg economy

Alesa Miller
Kansas Highway Patrol officers and KDOT workers monitor the junction of Highways 183 and U.S. 54-400 where a roadblock was put in place last week due to a butane gas leak 8 miles west of Pratt. The highway closure shut off the City of Greensburg for several days, causing economic loss that will be difficult for business owners to recoup.

Residents and business owners in Kiowa County were not happy when they found themselves shut off from commerce Monday through Thursday afternoon when the main highway that runs along the business district of Greensburg was shut down.
A ruptured gasline one mile east of Cullison in Pratt County, on one of the main cross-country lines of Mid-American Pipeline, caused the closure of U.S. Highway 54/400. Safety precautions taken detoured all traffic away from Greensburg and Haviland and through traffic was shut down between Greensburg and Pratt for several days. 
U.S. Highway 54/400 was closed down at K-183 just west of Greensburg diverting traffic around Greensburg starting on Sunday, January 26, around 8:30 p.m. All traffic from the east was diverted to use the old 54 highway at Main Street in Cullison. The main highway was not reopened until Thursday evening, January 30.
Employees of Subway who live in Mullinville and Bucklin were not allowed to pass through the roadblock that was manned by the sheriff deputies and KDOT workers, even to go less than a mile to get to their jobs which they could see from the road block at 183.
“The detour added an extra hour onto our drive time,” said Skyler Slater of Subway in Greensburg. “It’s a very dangerous, unpaved road and I almost slide off and hit someone.”  
Kim Kettering an employee of Best Western Inn, who lives in Cullison, had to spend Sunday night in Greensburg because she could not get to her house due to the road closure.
But the delay to work was not the only headache Subway and other businesses in Greensburg suffered.
“We typically sell over 600 units a day and we are only selling about half of that,” Slater said.
Dillion’s grocery sales were down 27 percent according to manager Brenda Adams.
“Things really slowed down around here without the highway traffic, we got a lot of cleaning done,” Adams said. "If this was to ever be a long term situation I am sure corporate would have to re-evaluate what changes would have to be made to assure the store was profitable.”
Smit Patel of the Greensburg Inn on the east side of town said his business relies on drive-through traffic to survive.
“We’ve only had two rooms rented during all three and a half days of the shut down,” Smit said. “We can’t survive as a business like that.”
Jennifer Greenleaf owner of Turquoise Ranch, a clothing boutique in Greensburg, said she had zero sales on Monday and Tuesday because customers just weren’t passing through.
Businesses in Greensburg got hit with a double whammy as not only did the highway get shut down, but the heaviest snow Greensburg has seen in several years came through on Monday night, paralyzing the city until trucks could get out and clean the roads.
More than eight inches of snow covered the county, and with the road being closed, highway workers were unable to maintain the roads as they normally would. The snow caused the Kiowa County Courthouse and Health Department to close Jan 28. as well as the schools.
The drastic decrease in traffic made Writa Wilson of Reggie's Pizza wonder what business could actually be like when the state decides to finally expand U.S. Highway 54/400 and go around Greensburg.
“We just keep praying the state will run out of money before that happens because we can’t survive if it does,” Wilson said.
Angelique Libby owner of the Daylight Donut Shop said she greatly appreciates her local customers, but 75 to 80 percent of her business comes from the highway.
“I definitely saw a decrease in sales this past week,” she said.
The decrease in sales was even felt as far down Main Street in Greensburg as the Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain at the Kiowa County Historical Museum.
“We normally have people from the highway in here by around 11 a.m. and while the highway was closed we didn’t have any sales till after school got out,” said Mary Racette, manager.
Greensburg wasn’t the only town that felt the pain of the road closure. Origins Coffee House in Haviland reported that they saw a decrease in business also without the normal highway traffic.