Topeka Kansas' interstate system is in good shape, but hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements are needed within the next 10 years, according to a report released Tuesday.
"Every day the interstate system saves lives, time and money for both residents and visitors to the state," said Frank Moretti, director of policy and research for The Road Information Program, a Washington, D.C., group funded by highway interests.
Nationally, the interstate system is approaching its 50th birthday, with a section of Interstate 70 west of Topeka laying claim to being the first interstate project finished under the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act.
Moretti said 74 percent of Kansas' 874-mile interstate system is in good shape.
"The challenge is to keep Kansas interstates in that condition," he said.
By 2016, that will cost $515 million to widen congested interstates in the Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita areas.
It also will require reconstructing 150 miles of roads and 220 bridges, the report said. No estimate for the cost of those projects was available.
"We've built a great system and worked hard to maintain it," said Terry Heidner, director of planning and development for the Kansas Department of Transportation. "We need to continue to be vigilant."
Heidner said at this point funding for the future projects had not been nailed down.
Interstates represent 1 percent of Kansas highway miles but carry 24 percent of its vehicle traffic, including 40 percent of its commercial truck traffic. From 1990 to 2004, vehicle travel on Kansas' interstates increased 53 percent, but actual lane miles on the system increased by only 1 percent.
The release of the report and news conference also was seen as a precursor for another comprehensive transportation plan for Kansas. The current 10-year, $13.5 billion plan is set to expire July 1, 2008.
Patrick Hurley, with Economic Lifelines, which lobbies for transportation funding, said his group heard constantly from areas of the state that want road improvements.
"We'll be looking at continuing that sequence," of road plans, he said.
Alan Cobb, leader of the Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, said the report was a blatant attempt to gin up interest in more highway spending and taxes.
"They are laying the groundwork for another round of massive borrowing and big tax increases," Cobb said. "It's a tough sale, and they are starting early."
Cobb said Kansans already were paying enough for their highway system and that it hadn't seemed to help the economy as much as states that spent much less.
"Kansans are leaving this state on these highways paved with gold," he said.