King: Kansas to spend $1.2 billion on highways PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 22 August 2014 09:37

By ROBERT PIERCE

• Leader & Times

 

Hundreds of projects that will improve Kansas roads and bridges, as well as create short- and long-term jobs, have been scheduled by the Kansas Department of Transportation for the next two years.

Representatives from KDOT were in Liberal Thursday morning to talk about some of those projects, particularly ones that could affect local and area motorists.

KDOT Secretary Mike King said that two years includes about 464 highway projects and 194 bridge projects across the entire state.

“More than 1,600 miles of roadway are going to be associated with that, with an estimated cost of $1.2 billion,” he said. “Our annual budget is about $1.5 billion. That’s what you as taxpayers, me as a taxpayer are investing into our infrastructure needs in the state. We appreciate that. That’s why we have such great roads.”

Speaking at the Rock Island Depot, King said that money is a long-term financial commitment for infrastructure, not only for roads and bridges, but for the entire transportation network in Kansas.

KDOT started its third Transportation Works for Kansas, or T-WORKS, program in 2010. That program is scheduled to run through 2020, and King said this time, preservation is a heavy focus.

“About 65 percent of the $7.8 million that we’re investing is preservation,” he said. “We all know what preservation is like. It’s hard sometimes to explain that to the public, but it’s a very, very needed part of maintaining the structures that we have.”

KDOT had done or bidded some projects in the area, including ones for the Six Points intersection in Liberal, as well as at the intersection of U.S. Highway 54 and Clay Avenue and some bridge repairs on U.S.-54 and U.S. Highway 56.

“Some other projects in this area that are going to be with this new program in this next two years that we’re announcing in Southwest Kansas will be in Haskell County north of Sublette,” King said. “That interchange and passing lane project will be letting later this year.”

The KDOT secretary then went on to talk about a project to help four-lane a portion of Hwy. 54 east of Liberal.

“We’ve divided that project into three different sections,” he said. “Today, we’re announcing the middle sections, the four-mile section right around the ethanol plant.”

King said that Hwy. 54 project has been in KDOT’s long range plans.

“We’re going to get from the east side of Liberal just past the river, including the river bridge, but we’re not stopping there,” he said. “We also have design we’re starting from east of the river into Plains to the U.S.-160 intersection.”

King then introduced Seward County Commission Chairman Ada Linenbroker, who talked about what having a four-lane highway locally would mean.

“Four-lane transportation is the key to improving the future for Seward County,” she said.

Linenbroker then gave statistics to show the impact four lanes of traffic could mean to Seward County.

“KDOT has reported that over 1,620 large vehicles travel on Hwy. 54 every day, and with the 26 cents tax that we collect on a gallon of diesel and a semi that uses about seven miles a gallon of diesel, all those trucks that travel from Wichita to Liberal, they would pay over $12,000 a day in taxes, making that over $4 million in tax revenues that can be used for our roads,” she said. “Sales of fuel for Kansas would be $63.5 million.”

Linenbroker next added passenger vehicles, 4,700 of them per day traveling on Hwy. 54, into the transportation equation.

“The tax revenues, we have increased that money coming in to $11,500 a day in taxes,” she said. “That’s another $4 million in tax revenues a year, with a total of fuel purchases on vehicles being over $65 million.”

Linenbroker said construction of a new four-lane highway and an increase of merely half of the current total would increase tax revenues by more than $30 million a year for both large and passenger vehicles.

“These numbers are impressive for Kansas and Hwy. 54,” she said.

Linenbroker next talked about the safety factor of constructing four lanes of traffic through Seward County.

“It’s a proven fact that four lane roads are safer, and Seward County, unfortunately, has suffered 10 deaths in the last 24 months,” she said. “Most of these were head ons with semi trucks. For myself, I feel it’s important to get that second lane bridge on the Cimarron River between Liberal and Kismet. Another important location is going to be the exits for Conestoga and the helium plant. We know that traffic is just going to increase in the future.”

Linenbroker finished by praising the state’s work on local highways.

“Thank you to KDOT for working to make our future here in Seward County and Southwest Kansas better with these projects, and I’m looking forward to the beginning of the construction for our projects here,” she said.

King said by the time the current T-WORKS program ends in 2020, KDOT will have invested nearly $60 million and improved almost 90 miles of road in Seward County alone.

“That work will create jobs for hundreds of people working on the projects, but better news in long-term prospects, these will make it possible for companies and businesses to increase their capacity, increase their employment here as well,” he said. “That’s what the legislators had in mind when they passed the T-WORKS program.”

King said unveilings such as the one that took place Thursday take a team effort.

“It takes some time for projects to be put together,” he said. “All the projects are on time. They’re on budget the way we planned things out. All of those funding sources are in good shape, and all those projects are in good shape.”

Two of the four projects talked about Thursday are scheduled to be let this year, with one of those let on Wednesday, and the remaining two are scheduled to be let in 2015 and 2016 respectively. KDOT Deputy Secretary Jerry Younger said, however, those dates could be moved up.

“When they’re ready to go, we’re going to let,” he said. “If we can gain a few months by aggressively getting something ready to go, that’s when we’re going to let the project. Even though we’re saying these are the dates, if we’re able to gain some time, we’re going to let the projects a little bit earlier.”

Jack Taylor, director of the Southwest Passage Initiative for Regional Interstate Transportation, the group heading up the effort to four lane Hwy. 54 in not only Kansas, but also Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, was also on hand at the Depot, and like Linenbroker, he is excited to see the local projects get under way.

“When this is started in 2016, Oklahoma is going to be bringing five lanes through Tyrone, so we’re going to have dirt flying east and west,” he said. “That’s going to be encouraging to see.”

 
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