Even in Washington, D.C., city leaders can't escape the topic of Lawrence's deteriorating streets.
In fact, a Lawrence delegation traveling to Washington to lobby federal legislators plans to make the issue a major topic of conversation.
City commissioners today approved a legislative priority statement that includes a heavy focus on encouraging federal legislators to shore up a key federal fund that cities heavily rely upon to address infrastructure needs.
"I think we want to challenge our federal legislators to not retreat from basic infrastructure needs," City Manager David Corliss said. "Their help is very important to this community."
Corliss, Mayor Sue Hack and Vice Mayor Mike Dever will be part of a Lawrence group that will meet with the Kansas Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
Corliss said the city wants to devote some of the visit to emphasizing the importance of the federal highway fund, a fund that provides billions of dollars a year to state and local governments across the country for road projects. Federal officials recently have been warning of a projected $4.3 billion shortfall in the fund. The fund largely is financed by a federal per gallon tax on gasoline. The gasoline tax has become a less stable source of revenue as consumers have begun conserving gasoline in the wake of rising prices.
The city recently used federal transportation funding to pay for about 80 percent of the project to reconstruct Kasold Drive north of Peterson Road. Corliss said there are many other large road projects - such as rebuilding Kasold Drive between 15th Street and Peterson, or revamping parts of Wakarusa Drive - that the city likely will need federal funding to complete.
State leaders have warned that Kansas may lose $130 million to $150 million in transportation funding if the federal fund is not shored up.
"This could have a large impact on Lawrence," Corliss said.
The city's legislative policy statement specifically highlights two road projects that the city currently has applied for federal funding: a new interchange at Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway; and intersection improvements on Kansas Highway 10 and Franklin Road near the East Hills Business Park.
Other issues that the city included on its legislative priority statement are:
¢ Seeking future support to develop a bioscience industry in Lawrence.
"We really need to drive home the idea of how our location and the university put us in what we believe is a really strong position to have the biosciences be a major part of our future," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said.
¢ Continued funding for public transit operations, improvements to the Lawrence Municipal Airport, and for housing projects through the federal Community Development Block Program.
¢ New funding for the recently designated Freedom Frontier National Heritage Area, which is designed to highlight the area's Civil War history.
¢ Research and educational funding for Kansas University and Haskell Indian Nations University.
Commissioners approved the legislative statement on a 4-0 vote. Mayor Sue Hack was absent from this morning's meeting.
Representatives of the county, KU, the chamber, the school district, and of the Lawrence-Douglas County Biosciences Authority also may make the trip to the Capitol on Monday. A full list of the delegation was still be compiled this morning. A cost estimate for the trip - which will be split among the various groups - also wasn't immediately available.