Purchase photos

KDOT seeks advice on funding road work

9/27/2012

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

It's obvious the state lacks the money to complete everything on its wish-list of highway projects.

So the Kansas Department of Transportation is on the road, making a series of stops in the state -- including one Tuesday in Hays -- to hear from county commissioners and road supervisors about priorities.

And they wanted to hear how those same people think the money should be raised to complete the projects.

At Hays, the nearly 50 people attending suggested an increase on the state's motor fuel tax, a tax on alternative fuels and a fee on alternative fuel vehicles.

They turned aside the idea of toll roads, local taxes and either a sales tax on automobiles or an increase in vehicle registration fees.

Tuesday's "consult" meeting was something of an update on the status of KDOT's T-Works program, a 10-year, nearly $8 billion project approved by the Kansas Legislature in 2010.

In addition to a promise to spend at least $8 million in every county during the life of the program, T-Works will pay for three big projects in northwest Kansas.

These include: the 2015 straightening of curves on Kansas Highway 27 south of Sharon Springs, expected to cost $9 million; the 2020 reconstruction and widening of shoulders on U.S. Highway 281 to Kansas Highway 18 north of Russell, at a cost of $33 million; and the 2020 improvement and widening of shoulders on Kansas Highway 383 in Phillips and Norton counties from U.S. Highway 36 to U.S. Highway 183, a project that will cost $53 million.

Both the K-383 and U.S. 281 projects will require detours, although KDOT officials said local access will be maintained.

While future highway funding was one of the big questions being asked, the people attending also were asked about priorities for construction -- if money unexpectedly became available.

Split into two groups, the recommendations mostly fell to widening of shoulders -- the suggested priorities that were first identified in similar meetings in 2010.

But both groups also talked about an enhancement project, that of extending the U.S. Highway 183 Bypass north of Interstate 70, meeting up with Feedlot Road and then curving back around to connect up with U.S. 183.

One group listed that as its top priority. Ellis County Road and Bridge Supervisor Mike Graf was a member of that group.

The second group, with Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund supporting the project, didn't get an endorsement.

What chance it has of actual construction is uncertain, although the meeting was designed to see what projects should have engineering work completed, so it will be ready to go if money becomes available.

A second off-the-chart idea involved expanding U.S. Highway 36 to four lane, at least in populated areas to handle truck traffic better.

That project didn't get the necessary vote of support in either group.

Recommendations from the eight regional meetings will be taken back to Topeka for a final decision.