Archive for Thursday, April 24, 2008

Group calls for brakes on planned highway spending

In this file photo, vehicles travel along the Kansas Highway 7 and U.S. 24-40 interchange during roadwork in 2008.

In this file photo, vehicles travel along the Kansas Highway 7 and U.S. 24-40 interchange during roadwork in 2008.

April 24, 2008


— Before Kansas officials rev up their engines to start a third major highway spending plan, a government watchdog group is waving the yellow flag.

Art Hall, executive director of the Kansas University Center for Applied Economics, and Americans For Prosperity said state officials need to take more time to analyze road projects before approving them.

"Every dollar spent on a transportation project is a dollar not spent for another government service, or a dollar not spent lowering our state's tax burden," said Alan Cobb, director of the Kansas chapter of AFP.

Hall backed up Cobb, saying that the Kansas Department of Transportation should conduct rigorous cost-benefit analyses of projects to determine which should be done, and of those, which should get the top priority.

"It's all about getting better information flow to decision makers and taxpayers," Hall said.

Their comments came as lawmakers, KDOT and officials throughout the state lay the groundwork for the next comprehensive transportation program.

The current 10-year, $13.5 billion program expires next year.

KDOT Secretary Deb Miller said she had some problems with Hall and Cobb's analysis.

KDOT uses reams of data before deciding on projects, such as traffic counts, road safety and crash history, Miller said.

"These dollars are extremely precious, and we have to spend them wisely," she said.

She said, however, that relying solely on a cost-benefit analysis for each highway project may be short-sighted because some projects may not be justified alone, but enhance the entire system.

For example, she said, the interstate system is a national asset, even through some segments of the interstate would be difficult to pass muster on a cost-benefit analysis.

A large portion of the state's comprehensive transportation program includes system enhancements, in which communities vie for projects.

Hall questioned improvements made to widen U.S. Highway 24-40 near the Kansas Speedway because the road is just two miles north of Interstate 70. Had a more in-depth cost-benefit analysis been done, those expenses may have been saved, he said.

KDOT officials said this was a $38.6 million project that was selected because of high economic development potential, plus local officials have promised to take over responsibility for maintaining the road.

Pat Hurley, head of Economic Lifelines, a coalition of groups that lobbies for highway funding, said the transportation plan alone has been an economic boon to the state, creating jobs, payroll and increasing commerce.

But Cobb said investing in highway projects to spur economic growth "may be just a transfer of economic benefits from one region to another."


gccs14r 9 years, 11 months ago

Cars and trucks are going away later this century. Interurban road traffic will be near zero. Instead of having spent $13 billion on roads, we should have spent it on passenger rail.

grimpeur 9 years, 11 months ago

$13.5B over 10 years.Motorists' gas tax contributions in that same time: only $4B, barring a major correction in the gas tax. Two years ago (ten, actually), it should have been clear that motorists were not paying their own way on the roads. An increase in gas tax was needed, and we could have profited as a society from another 50 cents/gallon. Instead, we now pay it to Exxon instead. Subsidy, anyone?

KS 9 years, 11 months ago

Anybody that complains about the oil companies and the price of gas should go to the oil production areas (US Gulf of Mexico for one) and see just what is involved in getting a barrell of oil out of the ground and ultimately to any gas station. It is an enormous task and very expensive. They rake in a lot of money, but they spend a lot too. What is their margin of profit? McDonald's problably has a higher profit margin.Whinning, anyone?

budwhysir 9 years, 11 months ago

Just another group of backseat drivers calling the shots. Why would we want to slow down progress when the tax money we pay is funding the project. i say get it done fast and get it done right, otherwise we will be paying on the project for years to come. O wait, thats what we do now

budwhysir 9 years, 11 months ago

Mcd sells food, food is taxed like the roads so in effect Mcd is a good example of how we depend on roads to eat. However, if we eat at home then we dont need the road or Mcd. While everyone argues the point, I will continue to fly everywhere in my personal plane, sure fuel is a little more expensive but I never worry about the condition of roads or traffic. You never hear Hillary complain about the state of our roads. In fact I have never heard her worry about eating a hamburger either. Maybe she prefers to eat stake or prime rib.

estespark 9 years, 11 months ago

A CBA on US-56 expansion along with US-59 expansion, relative to the BNSF intermodal facility in Gardner, would more than justify these two enhancement projects. Not to mention new interchanges on I-35 at Gardner and probably some additional lanes on the interstate itself. The net "dollar" benefit of these improvements is exceedingly high. Of course, KDOT could just opt for the "no build" option and let thousands of trucks hit the current "under built" state highways & interstates each month. That would be responsible.

budwhysir 9 years, 11 months ago

Garder????? is that in Lawrence????? I do agree that the "NET DOLLAR" I very see thru

budwhysir 9 years, 11 months ago

So, if we put the brakes on, do we know if they work? I am not sure how long it has been since this "vehicle" has been inspected. And what type of gas mileage are we getting. Is it time to upgrade to a green model?

JohnBrown 9 years, 11 months ago

Rather than build roads, maybe KDOT ought to look at the needs of future transportation. For autos, hydrogen-powered, and electrics will need fuel access infrastructure. Maybe the semi's could tap into a third rail for the long hauls, or maybe KS should start buying up right of way for mass transit.The rules are changing, and the same-o same-o won't cut it.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 11 months ago

Ah, Americans for Prosperity. Is there anything you're not insensible about?

not_dolph 9 years, 11 months ago

I would almost say that calling him a whor* for Koch is a compliment...but I guess there aren't many descriptive terms worse than that. He certainly is good at misrepresenting, disguising, changing facts and figures to benefit his Koch cause. If Koch banked all the money they have put into the entire AFP thing, they would be miles ahead of whatever (if ever) they might get out of AFP propaganda-ish goals/claims.

number1jayhawker 9 years, 11 months ago

If it wasn't for all of the tree huggers, the SLT would have been done 15 years ago and cost 1/10 the amount it will take now.

BigPrune 9 years, 11 months ago

Just wait until Highway 59 is completed from Ottawa to Lawrence. It is projected 23rd Street will have 90,000 cars traveling on it daily. Today it is around 30,000. It doesn't take a cost benefit analysis to figure out that money should go to the SLT sooner rather than later.

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