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Archive for Thursday, August 13, 2009

KDOT calls for highway funding, postpones K-7 project

U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., discusses prospected for federal financing of the Highway Trust Fund, whose lack of money has prompted Kansas officials to delay starting a project to rebuild an interchange on Kansas Highway 7. Tiahrt, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, spoke after a luncheon meeting organized by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

August 13, 2009, 12:38 p.m. Updated August 13, 2009, 5:19 p.m.

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Construction of a new U.S. 59 Highway south of Lawrence remains safe in the budget world of the Kansas Department of Transportation, but financial concerns are putting the brakes on another major project nearby.

Deb Miller, the state’s transportation secretary, announced Thursday that the department would postpone its planned $28.8 million interchange at Kansas Highway 7 and Johnson Drive/55th Street in Shawnee.

The problem: Miller and her colleagues can’t be sure the federal government will send KDOT the millions of dollars it needs to keep future projects in the pipeline.

While Congress agreed earlier this month to pump $7 billion into the federal Highway Trust Fund — the program that states use to finance major transportation projects — lawmakers have yet to come up with a financing plan for next year.

“Congress fixed the 2009 budget shortfall and that will help with the remainder of this fiscal year,” Miller said, in a statement. “But we need for them to fix the 2010 problem before we can proceed with the K-7 project.”

That’s because some of next year’s anticipated money — $261 million, accounting for about 30 percent of KDOT’s own budget — would be used to finance the bulk of the K-7 project, and KDOT isn’t in the mood to start a project it may not be able to finish.

KDOT had planned to open bids from contractors next month, but that step has been put off indefinitely.

Miller wants Congress to refinance the trust fund, so that the K-7 project — and others in the pipeline — won’t grind to a halt or miss out on what has been an economical environment for hiring construction crews.

Since January, the average cost for KDOT contracts has come in 6.l6 percent below estimates.

“Because of the down economy, contractors have been submitting lower bids in order to get work,” Miller said. “We’d like to proceed quickly to take advantage of those competitive bids.”

U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., couldn’t agree more. The Republican from Goddard, a member of the House Appriopriations Committee, said that investing in infrastructure would be one of the best ways to get the economy going again.

“Congress is going to do the right thing about making sure that the trust fund has ample resources,” Tiahrt said Thursday, after a luncheon meeting organized by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. “I think we will see funding for these projects continue, (but) the time in which that money will be available is still in question.”

Steve Swartz, a KDOT spokesman, said that ongoing construction of U.S. 59 between Lawrence and Ottawa remained on track, and would not be in jeopardy regardless of what Congress did or did not decide on the highway trust fund.

Comments

Richie Kennedy 5 years, 4 months ago

To answer logorithmic's comments:

  • I was just at Lynn Jenkin's Town Hall meeting in Oskaloosa (which was packed, BTW). She mentioned that highway spending was only 3-5% of the stimulus packages, and felt that the spending could have been more biased in favor of highway projects

  • Where in the heck are you getting any suggestion that the new US 59 freeway will be six lanes. That is definitively false, and I don't think Wal-Mart lobbied for the freeway. This stretch of 59 had been suggested to be a freeway as far back as 1971 - Wal-Mart would have just expanded into Kansas at that time.

  • The reason 59 is being prioritized for work over K-7 is that the K-7 project hasn't been let, whereas construction on US 59 is well underway. Obviously, the SLT is behind K-7 in terms of bid-readiness, even without the pending litigation.

puddleglum 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't think Wal-Mart lobbied for the freeway. This stretch of 59 had been suggested to be a freeway as far back as 1971 - Wal-Mart would have just expanded into Kansas at that time -route56

Wal-Mart lobbied for sure. They have been complaining that they can't send their trucks from their ottawa terminal up 59 to I-70 for years and years. There is no real reason for the super highway other than this.

and why aren't we fixing the exisiting roads instead of building new ones? drive around douglas county and try to find a nice road....I dare you.

Richie Kennedy 5 years, 4 months ago

@puddleglum: do you have any evidence to back up your claim that Walmart lobbied for the 59 freeway. I have got evidence to show that the freeway was proposed long before the Walmart center in Ottawa opened.

Generally, I find the roads in Douglas County to be in decent shape. Why don't you tell me a road in the county that you find to be unacceptable (and don't give me some minimum-maintenance cow path or a city street)

Brent Atwater 5 years, 4 months ago

Where is the money for to finish SLT and make K-10 three lanes each direction from Lawrence to KC? Let Johnson county worry about K-7!

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