Will money for the South Lawrence Trafficway be included in long-range plans formulated by the Kansas Department of Transportation?
There are a lot of “ifs” involved.
The first “if” cited by KDOT Secretary Deb Miller Monday was the question of whether the 32nd Street alignment of the road will survive a challenge in federal court by those who oppose the SLT on cultural and environmental grounds.
“Should this alignment survive that legal challenge,” Miller said, “I don’t think there is any question it will be on the long list of projects that are highly sought after in a new transportation bill.”
There’s the second “if.” The SLT would be on a “long list of projects.” How it would rank on that list is anyone’s guess.
Another big “if” is found in the continuation of Miller’s quote: “… whether or not the South Lawrence Trafficway is included in the bill will probably depend on just how big the program is.” The fewer the dollars, the greater the competition for funding.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he was dedicated to pushing approval of some kind of highway plan in the 2010 session, but also was uncertain about how it would be funded. It’s unlikely, he said, that legislators would approve a general tax increase for roads, which means funding probably would have to come from user fees, such as vehicle registration fees and gasoline taxes.
In the current economy, large increases in those fees are unlikely to get legislative approval, meaning that potential funding for a long-range transportation plan would be seriously limited. Also keep in mind that “transportation” spending isn’t just about highways any more. A transportation plan also must include rail and air systems and other forms of public transportation.
An advocacy group that called Monday’s press conference on transportation is recommending a 10-year plan with a price tag that could reach $10 billion. Such a large plan would provide many Kansas jobs and complete many needed projects, perhaps even the South Lawrence Trafficway. Unfortunately, the state simply doesn’t have the money to adequately meet all of its current needs in such areas as highways, higher education, public schools and social services.
“If” the state economy and tax revenues start to turn around, more of those needs can be met … but that’s another big “if.”