Kansas is working on a new transportation plan, the previous 10-year plan expired this summer
By ROBERT PIERCE • Daily Leader
Work on four-laning U.S. Highway 54 continues, and officials from the Southwest Passage Initiative for Regional and Interstate Transportation will meet along with leaders from the Department of Transportation of four states Monday and Tuesday in Guymon, Okla., to get updates on the progress of the project.
The 14th annual SPIRIT conference will start with a board of directors meeting Monday at the Mainstreet Guymon office.
“We’re gonna have a reception and get acquainted and visit some and maybe have just a little bit of entertainment and have some good finger foods to eat,” said SPIRIT Executive Director Jack Taylor.
“The next morning starting at 7:30, we’ll have a continental breakfast there at Hunny’s, and then we’ll start our welcomes.”
The keynote address will be given by Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley. Taylor said there will be a couple of panel discussions to update what is taking place in that state, Kansas, Texas and New Mexico, as well as what the future looks like for transportation in the four legislatures.
“At noon, we’re gonna have a good meal and then a talk by Mainstreet USA Director Linda Barrnett,” he said.
Taylor said he expects to see a turnout of about 40 to 50 people for the conference.
“I’d like to see 60, but with the economy the way it is, we’ll have 40 or 50 people there from four different states visiting with us,”
Taylor updated the progress of work on U.S.-54 in the four states, starting with New Mexico, which has completed 90 percent of its upgrade from Tularosa to Santa Rosa.
“They haven’t done anything in Texas yet,” he said. “They have it on the shelf and shovel ready, but they haven’t done anything yet.”
Taylor said Oklahoma’s portion of the project will be completed within three years due to additional stimulus money the state received and had designated for the highway.
“Fourteen miles of four lane will be completed in Kansas between Kingman and Pratt,” he said. “That’ll be completed in the next year.
It’ll take another year to get it all done.”
SPIRIT officials are currently in the process of talking to federal leaders and lawmakers in Washington about a new transportation package, according to Taylor.
“I’m hopeful that one will be passed before the end of the year,” he said. “If not, the present plan will be funded and extended for an additional year while they’re working on a new plan.”
In Kansas, Taylor said officials are working on a new transportation plan as well. The previous 10-year plan had expired this summer.
“The Department of Transportation secretary, Deb Miller, will be here in Liberal Oct. 15 over at the Depot to give us an update on plans and how we can help speed this thing along,” he said.
Taylor said officials may learn a little about the progress of a new comprehensive transportation plan at next week’s conference, but he feels Miller’s visit will provide much in the way of information concerning the package.
“I’ve talked to several of our legislators in Topeka,” he said.
“They’re all wondering where’s the money gonna come from. They all believe that we need another stimulus package to put people to work and buy the material to do more four-laning, but they’re wondering just how to fund it to get it kicked off.”
If a new CTP is passed, SPIRIT officials are planning to push for the stretch of U.S.-54 from Liberal to Mullinville to be completed in the next 10 years. Taylor said leaders in Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City have agreed that the number one priority is from Kingman to Mullinville.
“If we can get that done in the next 10 years, then we’ll have about 25, 30 miles gap to do in the future to get it completed from Wichita to Liberal,” he said.