Archive for Thursday, July 23, 2009

Highway funds will dwindle, projects to be limited, unless transportation funding improves

Few projects will be completed across state in next few years

The Kansas Department of Transportation is planning for $19.6 million in 2011 and $20.5 million in 2012 for surfacing of the new U.S. Highway 59 already under construction, from Lawrence to the Douglas/Franklin County line. It’s one of the few dozen projects KDOT can actually afford.

The Kansas Department of Transportation is planning for $19.6 million in 2011 and $20.5 million in 2012 for surfacing of the new U.S. Highway 59 already under construction, from Lawrence to the Douglas/Franklin County line. It’s one of the few dozen projects KDOT can actually afford.

July 23, 2009, 12:21 p.m. Updated July 23, 2009, 5:37 p.m.


Road work uncertain thanks to funding shortfalls

Uncertainty about funding is putting area road work on shaky ground. Enlarge video

KTA CEO discusses recent upgrades

Michael Johnston, CEO of the Kansas Turnpike Authority, explains the importance of a recent project to upgrade the convenience store and fuel pumps at the turnpike's Lawrence Service Area, about five miles east of the East Lawrence interchange, which is exit 204. The ground-breaking ceremony for the finished job was Thursday. Enlarge video

The federal stimulus program may be injecting $348 million into state highway projects, but don’t expect a long list of new work in coming years, the state’s top transportation official warned Thursday.

Deb Miller, secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation, said her department would be able to afford only a few dozen projects — including completion of a new U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence — during the next three years, given budget constraints.

And if Congress and the Kansas Legislature can’t come up with new or renewed transportation programs soon, even those projects could be in jeopardy.

“This is what keeps me up at night,” Miller said. “The funding situation could fall apart.”

Thursday’s warning likely won’t be the last from KDOT and its supporters, as some pivotal deadlines approach:

• Authorization for the federal program expires Sept. 30. If the program were allowed to expire, KDOT would expect to receive $285 million less than the $357 million the department received during the past fiscal year, a shortfall Miller said would require deep cuts into projects already in the works.

• The upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature likely will include discussions of a new state highway program, to follow up on the 10-year Comprehensive Transportation Program that expired June 30. The most recent program’s financed projects included the start of the U.S. 59 realignment.

For a department that already saw its State Highway Fund lose $106 million because of legislative adjustments, then see its budget trimmed by another $55 million since May, the view looking forward to new and anticipated projects appears cloudy.

Miller outlined a plan that calls for spending $336 million on projects this year, another $312 million in 2011 and $270 million in 2012 — or less than half the annual spending during each of the Comprehensive Transportation Program’s past 10 years.

“The truth is, that level of funding simply doesn’t meet the needs of our system and, if fiscal conditions continue to worsen, our short list of projects could get even shorter,” said Miller, who noted that the Governor’s Transportation Task Force figures that the state needs to spend $415 million a year just to maintain the system in place now.

With that in mind, KDOT said Thursday that this year’s spending would focus on maintenance and other work that concentrates on preserving the existing system. About 300 maintenance projects — from painting bridges to resurfacing roads and the like — will be financed, although KDOT has not identified which of those projects will be accomplished.

Also Thursday, KDOT identified some specific projects slated for financing, including:

• $19.6 million in 2011 and $20.5 million in 2012 for surfacing of the new U.S. 59 highway already under construction, from Lawrence to the Douglas/Franklin County line. The first portion would be concrete, and run from the county line to North 650 Road; the second section would be asphalt, and go north from the interchange at North 650 Road to the existing four-lane section of U.S. 59, just south of Lawrence.

• $800,000 to replace a drainage bridge along U.S. 59, just south of North 900 Road. The bridge would be replaced after the new U.S. 59 is open, thereby reducing delays for traffic.

• $1.4 million in 2010 to replace the Mud Creek Bridge along U.S. Highway 24-40, about 2.5 miles east of U.S. 59 north of Lawrence.

Also set for financing is “initial planning” for construction of a new interchange at Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway in Lawrence. The interchange is one of five such projects chosen to join a list of 60 other projects already in the department’s “development pipeline.”

Miller cautioned that the department did not have money to finance construction of the interchange, only to plan for its eventual construction should money become available.


Daniel Kennamore 8 years, 6 months ago

Do we really need to spend another couple million dollars to add another entrance to K-10...seriously? It's THAT hard to drive up to 6th or down to Clinton Parkway to get on?

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 6 months ago

Sounds good. And they can just finish the SLT while they're at it.

gccs14r 8 years, 6 months ago

How about adding the missing two lanes on the existing stretch before anyone else gets killed?

sherbert 8 years, 6 months ago

YES, it is important to complete the interchange from W. 15th/Bob Billings Parkway to K-10. It would save a lot of folks from having to drive several miles out of the way just to get around to 10, when 15th St. goes almost RIGHT UP TO IT now. Geez, this has been a loonnngg time coming, another Lawrence project that takes 15 years to complete.

gccs14r 8 years, 6 months ago

OTOH, after 50+ years of massive highway building to accommodate cars, all we've accomplished is a depletion of our natural resources, an emptying of our rural spaces, and eternal indebtedness to our enemies. We spend more for less and are less happy for it, and are too busy earning a living to have a life. If we quit building new roads, maybe we can start taking care of the ones we have.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

Stick with maintaining what Kansas has instead of adding more miles of new tax dollar demands. Let's be frugal for a decade or more.

Add A state traffic safety unit that does nothing but write tickets for DUI,speeding and 18 wheelers tailgating others. This could a better bang for the tax buck.

If Kansas cannot afford to maintain what we have what sense does it make to add more.

We can learn to live with what we have.

nut_case 8 years, 6 months ago

What else is new...the government takes huge piles of tax money and very little gets done. What happened to all our 'shovel ready' projects ?!?

Ken Miller 8 years, 6 months ago

K-10 (at least portions of it) will be tolled within the next 5 years.

Sean Livingstone 8 years, 6 months ago

The size of DOT is the problem, it goes hand in hand with depleting environmental conditions. The more roads you build, the more people you invite to drive on it, the more gas you burn, and thus, the more money you need to burn gas and build and maintain more roads. Just a vicious cycle. However, the no. 1 killer of his country's budget... is the military and medicaid... two things that politicians dare not touch to reverse the budget situations.

em1 8 years, 6 months ago

I think 59 hwy is just fine the way it is. That being said, the amount of money being directed at infrastructure through the "stimulus bill" is embarrassing. We've built trillions worth of road, grid, communications, water delivery and the like and expect it all to take care of itself. One in four bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. At the rate we're going, its only a matter of time before bridges everywhere start colapsing and rolling blackouts become a part of everyday life. Clearly more money needs to be directed at these valuable resources we take for granted until they fail. Until that money arrives, I won't shed a tear waiting on a hwy 59 expansion, and I would hope our leaders would direct what limited funding they have to projects we really need.

puddleglum 8 years, 6 months ago

yeah! its about time they add this intersection to k-10. I hate driving my mercedes all the way around wakarusa just to get to the bypass. do you like how important I am? I got the city to limit the amount of time that wakarusa gets the green light @ bob billings & wakarusa. that way, I don't have to be slowed down by silly motorists on wakarusa. who the heck put in the light at 6th & stoneridge drive? the left turn lanes take over 2-minutes to work...why not just leave them flashing yellow?

puddleglum 8 years, 6 months ago

and why can't they save money and use "chip and seal" on us 59? they use that crap everywhere else in the county.

james bush 8 years, 6 months ago

As the Hollywood fairy-tale producer's movie said, "Build it and they will come."

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