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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

House gives preliminary OK to bill requiring cooperation between Kansas Turnpike Authority, KDOT

March 8, 2013

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— The House on Friday gave preliminary approval to a bill that supporters said would encourage cooperation between the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the Kansas Department of Transportation, but opponents said the legislation marked the end of the road for the well-regarded turnpike.

State Rep. Joe Edwards, R-Haysville, expressed the sentiment of many opponents, saying the Kansas Turnpike was a major asset and that House Bill 2234 was an unnecessary intrusion into its operation. The measure was approved 78-40, and one more vote is required before final passage.

"What's going on here? We have the best 236 miles of turnpike in America," Edwards said.

At the start of the 2013 legislative session, Gov. Sam Brownback urged putting the Turnpike Authority under KDOT, saying it didn't make sense to have two highway agencies.

Brownback said the merger would save $30 million over two years, although KDOT Secretary Mike King has said he doesn't know how those savings would occur.

The bill before the House watered down Brownback's proposal to allow KDOT and KTA to contract with each other. "Two state agencies should be able to cooperate," said state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence.

The bill also would allow toll revenue from the turnpike to be used for up to 10 miles on state highway projects that connect with the turnpike.

Opponents said the bill was the first step toward the Legislature taking tolls and revenues from the turnpike to pay for other state functions in the scramble for money in a revenue-starved budget.

"My fear is we are just one statute away after this to capture those cash reserves," said state Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita.

"I have great concern that at some point the fees that myself and constituents pay will not be invested in that asset but rather spent someplace else. That is nothing but a tax increase," said state Rep. Don Hill, R-Emporia.

But Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, said the turnpike, completed 60 years ago, should be debt-free by now. He compared the turnpike to an adult who "still lives with Mom and Dad. It's time to kick Junior out of the house."

The authority has approximately $200 million in reserves, but half of those funds are needed to help pay for bonds, according to Michael Johnston, president and chief executive officer of the KTA.

Johnston said the Turnpike Authority also is saving funds so that by the end of the decade it can replace numerous bridge decks without having to borrow any more.

Johnston wouldn't comment on the bill, saying that it's up to the Legislature to set policy for the state.

Comments

Hooligan_016 1 year, 9 months ago

"But Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, said the turnpike, completed 60 years ago, should be debt-free by now. He compared the turnpike to an adult who "still lives with Mom and Dad. It's time to kick Junior out of the house."

So constant and on-going maintenance with lane expansions and other construction means nothing?

Randy Leonard 1 year, 9 months ago

It's the build it and forget it mind set. That is the problem nationally with our infrastructure. Too many people think you just build it and you're done. A good example is the county bridges in Kansas. Over 600 are more than 100 years old and about 12,000 more are at least 75 years old. The expected service life of a bridge is 50-75 years. In todays dollars it would cost about $2 billion to bring all the deficient county bridges back up to current safety standards.

blindrabbit 1 year, 9 months ago

Drive the U.S. throughout the year!! I can say that one thing Kansas has in comparison to many States is a very good highway system. Want a comparison, visit any one of the adjacent states. Brownback's proposal is a method to "gut" the Turnpike Authority in order to do one of three things:(1) Eventually conveting other highways into toll roads, (2) simply capture monies generated by the Turnpike, (3) Cut employment. The result will no-doubt be a dimishment of both the Turnpike as well as the State DOT.

Hooligan_016 1 year, 9 months ago

I-70 in Indiana is absolutely horrendous.

Charles L Bloss Jr 1 year, 9 months ago

TX has the best roads I have ever been on. Their farm to market roads are better than I-70 is in KS. Being fair, they do not have the freeze thaw problems KS roads have. They also have oil revenue to help pay for their awesome road system, but the fact remains they beat any state I have ever been in.

2xhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

"But Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, said the turnpike, completed 60 years ago, should be debt-free by now. He compared the turnpike to an adult who "still lives with Mom and Dad. It's time to kick Junior out of the house."

More like a couple of meth-head parents that want the successful child to move back in so they can share the wealth. "Yeah, Jimmy, after you move home we can have a joint checking account! We'll save money that way!!"

question4u 1 year, 9 months ago

"Brownback said the merger would save $30 million over two years, although KDOT Secretary Mike King has said he doesn't know how those savings would occur."

What does Mike King know? He only has insider's knowledge and an expert's perspective. By now it's clear that those things won't get you very far in Kansas. You need to have no experience and pull numbers from a hat if you want any credibility with the Brownback administration.

In Kansas the less you know, the further you go.

headdoctor 1 year, 9 months ago

It may sound ridiculous but I am wondering if the dummies of Brownback and company aren't purposely setting the Kansas highway system up to fail so they have an excuse to privatize it. That will really improve the Kansas economy when out of state travelers and shipments avoid Kansas or other states start charging Kansans to cross into their area as retaliation. There is no savings involved here. Just moving money from the Turnpike Authority that was paid by user fees to the general highway fund where it will vanish before the tax payers eyes.

buffalo63 1 year, 9 months ago

"'That's nothing but a tax increase', said state Rep Don Hill, R- Emporia". There is one Republican who gets it! Hope he was one of the 40.

costello 1 year, 9 months ago

There were two Republicans mentioned in the article who get it:

"State Rep. Joe Edwards, R-Haysville, expressed the sentiment of many opponents, saying the Kansas Turnpike was a major asset and that House Bill 2234 was an unnecessary intrusion into its operation."

Charles L Bloss Jr 1 year, 9 months ago

I use the turnpike frequently, and it is better than any KS KDOT roads, except for the new concrete replacement of US 24 Hwy between Topeka and Perry. Our roads are damaged by two things, the freeze thaw cycle which we cannot control. Overweight trucks which we can control, if we would spend the money for adequate enforcement. Overweight trucks cause KS to have to spend millions in taxpayer funds to keep repairing roads and bridges they damage.

rukidingme 1 year, 9 months ago

For the record, KTA is NOT STATE owned andnot controlled by the STATE OF KANSAS. The articles said KDOT and KTA are two state agencys. FALSE.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Opponents said the bill was the first step toward the Legislature taking tolls and revenues from the turnpike to pay for other state functions in the scramble for money in a revenue-starved budget.

"My fear is we are just one statute away after this to capture those cash reserves," said state Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita. --- Nile Dillmore is very preceptive I would say

"I have great concern that at some point the fees that myself and constituents pay will not be invested in that asset but rather spent someplace else. That is nothing but a tax increase," said state Rep. Don Hill, R-Emporia. --- Don Hill is also quite perceptive

But Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, said the turnpike, completed 60 years ago, should be debt-free by now. He compared the turnpike to an adult who "still lives with Mom and Dad. It's time to kick Junior out of the house." --- This man does not know what he is talking about!!! Mark Hutton would not be a good person to manage much of anything.

No highway system can ever be debt free. KTA has been responsible for maintenance and new improvements along the way. A 60 year old roadway has many many maintenance demands on the table. Maintaining existing roadways is a valuable investment in the state.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Who is Mark Hutton?

Owner, Hutton Construction Corporation, 1992-present Field Engineer/Project Manager, General Contractor, 1977-1992

Looks like he will clean up on the new tax legislation = tax dollar moocher.

Bet his operation does not operate debt free. Maybe he wants more tax dollars by way of KTA. Beware of mark Hutton.

Mike Ford 1 year, 9 months ago

remember when daimler acquired chrysler who at the time had a $10 billion surplus? daimler took that surplus and kicked chrysler into govt bailout and italian acquisition. kdot looks like daimler and kta looks like chrysler in this situation.

smileydog 1 year, 9 months ago

the tolls on the turnpike were orginally supposed to be phased out. so much for that!

kuguardgrl13 1 year, 9 months ago

Compared to other states I've lived in, Kansas has pretty decent roads. I grew up in Pennsylvania. Those of you who have driven on any stretch of the PA Turnpike know that it's constantly under construction (although I have heard that major stretches outside of Pittsburgh are finally finished), they have to constantly fill potholes and cracks, and there are some stretches that may never be expanded to have a wide median like we have on I-70. I was also living in Minnesota when the I-35W bridge collapsed. The rumor was that our governor at the time, Tim Pawlenty, had cut so much money for MnDOT that they couldn't properly inspect or maintain our bridges. And this wasn't some county bridge in the middle of nowhere. 35W is a major commuting route for Minneapolis. So when the KS legislature is talking about what savings can be found with the highway system, I have to question it, especially if the people who work in those agencies aren't seeing the same numbers.

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