Top Kansas transportation official is stepping down

photo by: Associated Press

Julie Lorenz, secretary of Transportation, speaks about how Kansas Department of Transportation will have a part of the new Office of Broadband Development during the announcement Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020 at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

TOPEKA — The top transportation official in Kansas is stepping down just before Christmas in the first major change at a state agency since Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly narrowly won reelection earlier this month.

Kelly’s office announced Tuesday that Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz plans to return to private business. Lorenz’s last day leading the state Department of Transportation is Dec. 23.

Lorenz spearheaded Kelly’s successful legislative push in 2020 for a new, 10-year program of highway and bridge projects. Worth about $1 billion a year, it also includes money to improve infrastructure for high-speed internet service and allows the state to build new toll roads or add toll lanes on existing highways.

Before Lorenz became the state’s transportation chief in 2019, she was an executive at Burns & McDonnell, a Kansas City engineering and architectural firm.

Kelly appointed Calvin Reed, director of the department’s design and engineering division, as interim transportation secretary until the governor nominates a more permanent replacement for Lorenz. The appointment must be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Kansas Senate.

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