Kansas highway planners are calling it "robbing Peter to pay Paul" when it comes to determining which roads to improve and how much to spend on them.
"We'll probably never have enough to do everything we need to do," said Clay Adams, northeast Kansas district engineer with the Kansas Department of Transportation.
That's why KDOT representatives are traveling the state during the next few weeks seeking public opinion about long-range spending. Tuesday, they were in Olathe, holding meetings with about 100 Kansas City-area public works and government leaders and community residents.
KDOT, along with representatives from its consulting firm, ETC Institute of Olathe, also took their area guests on van rides and asked them to complete a survey about highway conditions. They were asked to rate 15 sections of Interstates 435 and 35 and Kansas Highways 7 and 10 in Johnson and Wyandotte counties. Survey categories included width of lanes and shoulders, smoothness, striping, visibility, signage and overall condition. Most sections were at least a mile long.
"They are in a lot better shape than Lawrence streets," said Chuck Soules, Lawrence Public Works director, who was among those who attended one of the sessions. "There were one or two (sections) worse than others but nothing shocking."
Douglas County Public Works Director Keith Browning agreed.
"If it's an interstate, it's in the city and has a lot of traffic, I don't expect it to be glass-smooth," he said.
Improving highways in Johnson and Wyandotte counties won't necessarily have a major effect on Douglas County's rural roads or the streets of Lawrence, Browning and Soules said. But the state faces similar capacity and maintenance funding issues as Lawrence does, Soules said. And in the long run rural routes could see increased traffic, Browning said.
Participants in the KDOT event also were given an exercise to decide how they would allocate funding in the categories of preserving existing roads and bridges, modernization of shoulders and sighting distances and improving capacity by adding lanes. Both Soules and Browning said they favored spending on capacity and preservation.
KDOT and ETC will travel to five other locations in Kansas.
"We'll be looking at a variety of roads, two-laners and interstates," KDOT planner Kyle Schneweis said.
It could be several months before survey results are known.