By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
On Sept. 30, 2009, after five years, funding from the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act came to an end.
Congress has yet to pass similar legislation to provide continuation of transportation funding long-term into the future. Instead, funding has been continued through the passage of several bills that have provided short-term funding while Congress works on the long-term legislation. The latest of those bills was set to expire Friday, Dec. 31, 2010.
That is the date at which the City of Liberal needed to designate a project for the use of approximately $51,000 available through a federal obligation authority distribution for fiscal year 2011. Public Works Director Joe Sealey told city commissioners last Tuesday the funding would cease to exist if not utilized.
“We’re either going to have to use it, or we’ll lose it,” he said. “The state of Kansas has a program in which we allow them to obligate our funds for a particular project. They can hold those funds for up to three years. That allows us an opportunity to use those funds over the next three years.”
Sealey said it would cost the city about 10 percent of that, or about $5,000, to reserve the federal money, netting the city about $46,000 for a project done in the next three years.
“In order to do that, we have to submit a project that we want the state to consider,” he said. “As noted by staff, we thought the most logical project would be the one from Kentucky Fried Chicken on past Food Bonanza to get that last stretch of 54 improved. It’s already designed. We got it in the can. It’s ready to go. We think that’s going to be probably selected by the state in the 2012 new highway plan.”
Sealey said this would provide some additional funds, and it would make the estimated full year federal obligation authority distribution nearly $230,000. He said, however, that funding has yet to be approved by Congress.
“They thought that they would do that before the House recessed,” he said. “They didn’t do it, so I don’t know if that money’s ever going to be available.”
Sealey said the project would need to be designated by February. The commission voted unanimously to accept the request to mark the Highway 54 project from KFC to the former Food Bonanza building for funding.