Topeka Kansas will move ahead with dozens of road projects that had been stalled by budget problems, Transportation Secretary Deb Miller said Friday, responding to legislative approval of a new transportation program.
The Department of Transportation will take bids from contractors in July for 70 projects worth $46 million, Miller said. Over the following eight months, it will take bids for another 14 projects worth $40 million.
The department had suspended the projects in March because the state siphoned $257 million away from road and bridge improvements to pay for other parts of its budget.
But earlier this month, legislators approved a 10-year, $8.2 billion transportation program, Senate HB 2650, that will start July 1. Gov. Mark Parkinson, who’d pushed for a new program, plans to sign the bill Tuesday at a municipal airport in north Topeka.
“I couldn’t be more pleased that we are able to get our preservation program back on track,” Miller said in a statement.
The new program of road, bridge, airport, rail and public transit improvements follows programs started in 1989 and 1999. State officials said those programs were the reason Reader’s Digest in March ranked Kansas’ 10,000-mile highway system as the nation’s best.
But transportation officials worried that continued money problems would cause the system to deteriorate.
In April, the department posted a four-minute video on YouTube featuring photos of potholes and rough patches of highway to build pressure for lawmakers to pass a transportation bill. Local officials and contractors also lobbied for it.
Legislators approved a bill to raise the state’s 5.3 percent sales tax to 6.3 percent on July 1. Most of the new money will shore up the next state budget, but some will go to transportation pro-jects.
Also, the state will increase registration fees for heavy trucks by $100 a year, and the bill authorizes up to $1.7 billion in bonds over 10 years for transportation projects.
The last provision stirred opposition among conservative Republicans because the state still hasn’t paid off all the bonds from the 1989 or 1999 programs. They repeatedly compared another round of borrowing to a third mortgage on a home.