Thursday, February 14, 2019

Governor outlines T-WORKS projects, additional investments to move forward with transportation funding

Governor Laura Kelly and Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz announce plans to invest $160 million in revenue included in the FY2020 budget.

Governor Laura Kelly joined Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz to announce the Kansas Department of Transportation’s (KDOT) plans to invest $160 million in revenue that is included in the Governor’s FY 2020 budget for transportation.

Governor Kelly addresses the audience and announces four delayed T-WORKS projects across Kansas will resume construction.

The $160 million comes from reducing the amount of money transferred out of the State Highway Fund. Since 2011, more than $2 billion has been transferred out of the State Highway Fund, causing costly project delays, reduced highway preservation work, a decline in the health of our highway system and an inability to plan for future projects.

“With this $160 million in revenue, we will strengthen our highway system, take steps towards completing T-WORKS, and provide resources to communities across the state,” said Governor Laura Kelly.

“These are important steps forward, but to be clear, we still have a long way to go in order to get our transportation system where it should be.”

With the $160 million in FY 2020, KDOT will:

Increase the highway preservation investment from $350 - $400 million
• Move forward with four delayed T-WORKS projects:
  o US-54 in Seward County (Expansion project; let for construction Fall 2019)
  o US-169 in Anderson County (Modernization project; let for construction Fall 2019)
  o US-281 in Russell County (Modernization project; let for construction Spring 2020)
  o US-50 in Lyon County (Expansion Project; let for construction Spring 2020)
• Reinstate the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program
• Implement a new cost-share program for state/local partnerships
• Enhance its safety program
• Increase City Connecting Link maintenance payments
• Increase funding for modal programs (e.g., transit, aviation, rail and bike/pedestrian)

These investments are aligned with recommendations from the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force that met last year.

Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz discusses investments at a press conference held yesterday at KDOT Headquarters. 
“We look forward to working with communities and our partners across the state to deliver these investments,” said Secretary Julie Lorenz. 

“We know that funding reductions have impacted the health of our system. I’m so pleased to work with Governor Kelly to take this important step forward to achieving the goals the task force laid out and improving our state’s transportation system.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Black History Month transportation legends: Garrett Morgan



There is a lot of technology in the modern day that our society takes for granted. Yet, all the technology we use on daily basis came from inventions created to make life a little easier, and in some cases, safer. Today’s featured transportation legend saw a problem that needed to be fixed and laid down the foundation for an object most people use every day: The three-signal traffic light.

Garrett Morgan was an inventor who was born on March 4, 1877, in Paris, Kentucky.  After leaving home at the age of 14, he made it to Ohio and became a handyman in Cincinnati. Later, he moved to Cleveland and worked as a sewing machine repairman. After a few years, he was able to open his own sewing machine repair shop.

An example of Morgan's traffic signal. Source: National Museum of American History


In the early 1920s, horse-drawn carriages, bikes, wagons, streetcars, automobiles and pedestrians shared the same infrastructure and streets became quickly congested. At this time, there were manually operated traffic signals at intersections but their effectiveness left much to be desired. They switched between “Stop” and “Go” quickly and gave drivers little-to-no warning. Without time to react, collisions were common.

 It is said that Morgan saw a serious crash and it prompted to him to design a three-way traffic signal to help give drivers more time and clear intersections before traffic entered.

“The signal Morgan patented was a T-shaped pole with three settings,” according to History.com. “At night, when traffic was light, it could be set at half-mast (like a blinking yellow light today), warning drivers to proceed carefully through the intersection.”

Ohio History Central’s website said that the invention had three types of signals that said; “Stop,” “Go,” and “Stop in all directions.” The latter signal was created to allow pedestrians to cross the streets safely.

Morgan sold the rights to his invention to General Electric for $40,000. He is responsible for several other inventions, including the gas mask. He even developed his own newspaper called the Cleveland Call.

Morgan died in 1963 and although his traffic signal is not the same model we use today, it is because of Morgan that we have an interim or “caution” signal that helps clear intersections so traffic can move at a safer pace.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

KDOT awards $8.5 million in Transportation Alternatives projects

The KDOT Transportation Alternatives Program helps fund facilities for improved bike and pedestrian paths, and Safe Routes to School, as well as other project types. 


The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has selected 23 projects for inclusion in its Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program for Federal Fiscal Year 2020.

Eligible projects under this federal program include facilities for pedestrians and bicycles; scenic or historical highway programs; landscaping and scenic beautification; historic preservation of transportation facilities; conversion of abandoned railway corridors to trails; control or removal of outdoor advertising; archaeological planning and research related to transportation; and the Safe Routes to School program.

KDOT received 46 applications from eligible project sponsors requesting nearly $36.9 million in federal funds. Cities and counties across the state submitted applications for the TA program, which were received during an open application period from June 14, 2018, to Sept. 10, 2018.

 “We were happy to see so many quality applications from across the state this year. This proves how popular the TA program is and how important these types of projects are to Kansas communities,” said Matt Messina, Coordinator of the Transportation Alternatives Program for KDOT. “The main goals of the TA program are to help provide communities with more transportation options and to preserve or improve what they already have, and that’s what these projects will do.”

KDOT reviews and evaluates every application and makes selections based on criteria developed using input from various internal departments and external partners, such as safety and network improvements, cost estimates, project readiness, public support and other factors such as geography and funding distribution. All project sponsors are required to provide at least 20 percent of the cost as a local cash match and are 100 percent responsible for non-participating items.

For a full list of the projects go here.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Using resources wisely: KDOT employees work smart to keep Kansas moving


KDOT employees routinely engineer ways to work smarter to save time and resources. They know it’s important to use taxpayer dollars wisely.

Two recent examples of working smarter come from District Five’s Medicine Lodge and Anthony subareas in south central Kansas.

Dewayne Roland, Highway Maintenance Supervisor for the Medicine Lodge Subarea creates a machine that helps him program school zone signals. 

The interesting contraption hanging on the wall to the side of Dewayne Roland, Highway Maintenance Supervisor for the Medicine Lodge Subarea, is one of them. 

Modeled after a similar creation that crews at the Anthony Subarea built, it saves Roland a lot of time programming school zone lights on K-2 in Barber County.

Roland checks the calendar for South Barber High School online, and inputs days that school is out for holidays, in-service days and the like. Then he takes the programmed control box to each of four poles and plugs it in, downloading the data he input so the lights don't flash on days school is closed. 

Now it takes just one person about two minutes per set of lights to program the school zones. It used to take two people.

"One person would read out the dates, and one would program the control box," Roland said. "It saves two people having to stand there and program each light. We just plug it into an identical control box, and it automatically downloads everything. Used to be you'd stand there 15, 20, 30 minutes."

Crews in Anthony recently completed building a storage rack for a hydraulic hammer that will help protect the piece of equipment by keeping it stored upright and out of the elements.
Equipment Operator Jason Wolff and Equipment Operator Senior Paul Thompson built the rack using six retired guard rail posts as H-beams, snow plow backup blades and spare iron.


Anthony Highway Maintenance Supervisor Greg Bayless, left, and Equipment Operator Jason Wolff pose with a storage rack for a hydraulic hammer that crews made with spare parts. 


The rack can be loaded with a forklift or loaded onto a truck. It can be moved to a job site or to storage.

“It’s supposed to be stored in an upright position with pressure on the point,” said Greg Bayless, Highway Maintenance Supervisor. “We’re trying to take care of our equipment.”

The rack with the hydra hammer and attachments on board weighs 1,760 pounds and took a week to make.

“I let them run with the design because they’re good builders to begin with,” Bayless said of Wolff and Thompson.

Hydra hammers are used for tasks such as hammering and breaking up concrete, cutting asphalt and tamping down materials such as dirt.

The hydra hammer fits the subarea’s new backhoe/loader. Crews can take the bucket off the backhoe and attach the hydra hammer.

The Area Mechanic in Winfield found videos about the hydra hammer, and “I had the whole subarea crew watch all of them,” Bayless said.

The Anthony crew estimates it would have cost $5,500 to have an outside company manufacture a similar rack. Anthony shares the hydra hammer, new rack and attachments with the Wellington Subarea. Similarly, the Wellington Subarea shares equipment Anthony doesn’t have.

“We want to be good stewards of KDOT resources,” Bayless said.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

#IAMKDOT: Bonnie Hirsh



Stop by KDOT’s Dodge City Area Office and you’ll be greeted by Administrative Specialist Bonnie Hirsh.  

According to her co-workers, she’s always there with a smile and a desire to help. Hirsh has served as the Administrative Specialist in the Dodge City Area Office for just more than five years and fondly refers to her co-workers and the Subarea crews she works with every day as her family. 

Most days, Hirsh is busy processing payments, ordering parts and helping the crews with time card entries and other issues that need to be handled so the crews can do their work. She’s always willing to go the extra mile for those around her, whether it’s bringing treats for a celebration, or answering calls and updating road conditions during snow events.

In fact, her most memorable moment at KDOT has been the guys bringing her a sleeping bag one night, so she could catch a nap on the office floor during a snow event.  She says the best part of her job is her KDOT family and KDOT celebrations, like the summer barbecue and the Christmas party.

Hirsh graduated from Kinsley High School and attended Dodge City Community College. She enjoys spending time with her family, especially her granddaughter, Haddie. She also teaches religion classes at her church and enjoys reading mysteries, playing cards and cooking. 

Do you know a KDOT worker that deserves
recognition? Nominations are open - email Mallory.goeke@ks.gov today to get started.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wildfire Awareness Week: It only takes a spark


Gov. Laura Kelly has declared this week as Wildfire Awareness Week.

According to the K-State Research and Extension's website, The 2019 wildfire season may start earlier this year. The southwest and central parts of the state could even see an increase in fire weather events. Those areas have experienced extreme fires during the past few years, including the Anderson Creek and Starbuck fires. 

More than 800,000 acres burned and there was more than $80 million in property damage as a result of those events. 

While the causes for the majority of fires are accidental, there are plenty of ways you can help avoid unintentionally starting a grass fire while driving.

Double check to make sure trailer safety chains are secured. Dangling chains can get hot as they hit the pavement and cause sparks, which can ignite nearby vegetation.

Don’t park your car in tall vegetation. Emergencies happen. Sometimes you need to safely pull off to the side of the road. Be aware of your surroundings. Your car’s hot engine or exhaust system could ignite tall grass if it smolders long enough.

Check your exhaust system: Loose or damaged exhaust systems could allow small sparks to escape.

Don’t throw cigarette butts out of your vehicle. Cigarettes are manufactured to burn slowly. When thrown out of car windows, they have the potential to ignite dry grass and brush hours after being tossed out of a moving car. 

Wildfires and grass fires along the side of the roads are serious and can impede traffic due to lack of visibility. Taking these preventative steps could keep you and other travelers safe.

For more information on how to avoid wildfires check out this website.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Public encouraged to take survey on statewide UAS usage



The Kansas Department of Transportation’s (KDOT) Division of Aviation is seeking public opinion on the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones in Kansas airspace.

Individuals of all ages, occupations and backgrounds are encouraged to participate in the 10-question online survey available at https://www.ippkansas.org/ks-uas-ipp-survey until Feb. 28. 

Through the survey, KDOT hopes to gain a better understanding of the public’s familiarity and opinion on UAS use scenarios to drive operations for the Kansas UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

This federally-initiated program will help tackle the most significant challenges to integrating drones into the national airspace and will reduce risks to public safety and security. The Kansas team is focused on efforts in Long Line Linear Infrastructure Inspection (i.e. highways, railroads, energy distribution lines, etc.) and Precision Agriculture. IPP partners include state universities, Kansas UAS joint task force members and industry leaders. For a full list visit: www.ippkansas.org/partners.

KDOT is currently conducting UAS test flights in the airspace north of Gypsum and over partner right-of-way infrastructure and partner-owned land. These operations will support a Phase II safety case that will include Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations.

About Kansas UAS IPP
KDOT is one of only 10 national leaders conducting advanced UAS operations to guide future rule-making that will result in access to new technologies for the nation. The IPP is the result of a 2017 Presidential Memorandum issued to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  

Monday, February 4, 2019

New 2019-2020 Kansas transportation maps available

Whether you want to find the closest airport, discover new places of interest or travel along a Scenic Byway, the new 2019-2020 Kansas Official State Transportation Map has it all.

The map, published by the Kansas Department of Transportation, highlights numerous tourist and scenic locations, including state parks and lakes, as well as the recreation areas across the state.

City/county indexes and a distance map allow motorists to pick the best route to their destination. Visitor resources, helpful phone numbers/websites and locations of museums and hospitals are also provided.

On the back of the map are inset maps of Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka and 13 other cities. There is also road condition information and details on how to get roadside assistance.

Maps will be available at various travel information centers, attractions and other locations across the state. They can also be requested on the KDOT website at http://www.ksdot.org/maps.asp.