Thursday, August 22, 2019

Kansas City Metro Local Consult Summary

To navigate an unpredictable future – we need to consider where we can be certain and provide flexibility for where we can’t.

A modern transportation system must be nimble to navigate changes in our economy, population shifts or new weather patterns.  That was the key message that emerged from the Kansas City Metro’s Local Consult Round 1:  Visioning Transportation Futures meeting on Thursday.  Participants also called for collaboration and inclusivity by voicing support for making investments that benefit the entire region, establishing more public-private partnerships, and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Approximately 204 Kansans participated in a scenario planning exercise in Overland Park and provided input on how transportation investments could best serve their communities in the future.  It was also a chance to highlight recent successes as examples for what can work going forward.  For example, Beth Linn, city administrator of Edgerton, noted the connection between public and private investment. About $150 million in public funding for roads and bridges in the Logistics Park Kansas City area has spurred $1.1 billion in private investment, she said. And the 4,500 jobs expected in the area by the end of this year will contribute $6.6 million in new annual income taxes for Kansas, Linn added.

“We passionately believe in the connection between investment in public infrastructure and what happens on the private side as a result of that.”
-        Beth Linn, City Administrator for the City of Edgerton

And there are more opportunities to be gained with additional investments. Participants spoke of emerging needs such as improvements at K-47 & 43rd Street or better connections from Leavenworth to Kansas City International airport. Participants demonstrated an openness to alternative sources of funding to meet needs.  For example, Rep. Jeff Pittman, while advocating for the replacement of Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, mentioned that the community is willing to consider tolling to help fund a new bridge. He also said regional connectivity would be important to support ongoing economic development.

As they worked through three distinct future scenarios, participants said that Kansas’ position of being situated within a two-day drive to 85 percent of the nation’s population would continue to be an asset that the state should continue to leverage when making investments.  The metro region has some considerable advantages over coastal cities, including shorter commutes and more affordable housing.  And the region is making strides towards becoming more walkable, which is helpful for gaining new residents, they said.

The scenario planning exercise allowed participants to consider how technology could impact transportation needs and services going forward.  Beth Wright, Public Works Deputy Director and City Engineer for the City of Olathe, pointed out there may be a time in the future when traffic patterns and the need for more highway lanes change because self-driving vehicles can move people and goods when people aren’t awake. 

“I see a lot of car sharing and electric bikes in the future,”
-        Mark Bechtel, Deputy Regional Administrator for Federal Transit Administration

Technological implications were not limited to highway improvements.  Participants spoke about the increased traffic on Metcalf Ave. in Overland Park and how technology is already allowing better transit service, including increasing access to medical facilities.  There may also be opportunities to partner with ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft to increase mobility options throughout the metro, participants said.

In one future scenario, the Kansas City region would gain population rapidly due to extreme weather on the east and west coasts, which would have numerous implications on the transportation system. Participants stressed the importance of having flexibility to allow for future growth and capture new opportunities.  For example, an increased population in the metro area could generate density necessary to support light rail.

“When planning for future road improvements, we should consider transitional strategies, such as making one lane of a highway suitable for mass transit – like light rail.”
- Stephanie Malmborg, Deputy Community Development Director for the City of Shawnee
Similar to previous local consult meetings, participants were concerned about safety. However, the conversation expanded from identifying specific roadway improvements that can be made to improve safety to discussing the cultural tolerance of traffic fatalities.  Olivia Desmarais, a trauma injury prevention specialist for the University of Kansas Health System, noted that hundreds of Kansans die in traffic fatalities each year and the public must stop thinking that’s okay or unchangeable.

“We need to put safety at the forefront of all innovation.”
-Olivia Desmarais, Trauma Injury Prevention Specialist, University of Kansas Health System

Participants voiced strong support for making sure Kansans, regardless of where they live or their economic status, benefit from transportation investments.  This inclusivity extended to both rural and urban areas.  Participants noted that these areas are interdependent and regardless of what the future brings – rural and urban collaboration will be essential for the state to succeed.

Or as one group agreed, “More than anything as we move forward, we need to have faith in our communities and work together.”

Southeast Kansas Local Consult Summary

No matter what happens in the future, we need to make sure Kansans can travel safely.

While there were many issues discussed at the Southeast region’s Local Consult Round 1:  Visioning Transportation Futures meeting on Wednesday, participants made it clear that finding ways to improve safety should be a top priority and they were open to multiple approaches for how to do so.

“The city of Caney believes that passing lanes are alternatives that need to be considered.”
-        Fred Gress, City Administrator for the city of Caney

About 155 Southeast Kansans, the largest crowd this week, participated in a scenario planning exercise and provided input on how transportation investments could best serve their communities in the future.  There was a noticeable pragmatism and collaborative spirit among participants.  For example, they noted that while 4-lane highways are ideal, it’s not always fiscally feasible to expand highways and pointed out that constructing passing lanes or adding/expanding shoulders can improve highway safety at a much lower cost. These approaches will allow for more needs to be met across the region, they noted.

Similar to previous local consult meetings this week, Southeast Kansans stressed the importance of expanding broadband access across the state.  However, they added that cell phone reception in the region needs to be improved too.   

To address growing concerns with resiliency of our transportation system, attendees noted that recent weather events have opened consideration for a new approach for rebuilding infrastructure. Participants noted the challenge of resources if we keep rebuilding in the same places that are continually flooded, for example.

 “If we keep having flooding on the same roads, why do we keep rebuilding them in same place?”
-Chanute Resident

As they worked through three distinct future scenarios, participants noted that collaboration between urban and rural areas would be important in any scenario.  While rural and urban areas may have different challenges or expectations– they need to work together for our state to move forward successfully, participants stressed.

They also noted that while technology will bring new opportunities such as to telework – that will not feasible for every profession.  In particular, hands-on jobs that provide essential services, like road construction and electricians, will still exist and need to be factored into decision-making too, they said.  And many important components of the region’s economy are location specific, such as construction aggregates or oil and gas, which should be accounted for when making future investments.

One future scenario places an emphasis on regional hubs (smaller cities) in rural areas and participants saw a lot of value in making investments in hubs.  They noted, though, that hubs should not strictly be defined by retail as there are other smaller hubs that provide a lot of value to the region’s economy. For example, Sedan, while not a major retail center, serves a lot of traffic related to the oil and gas industry in the area.  They noted that areas that serve natural resources will always be important and the State should prioritize the routes needed to transport those materials to markets.

The conversation was not limited to highways as several people voiced support for short-line rail networks and mentioned that they can play a valuable role in reducing the toll heavy trucks can place on our highways.  Participants also voiced support for the new transload facilities in the state and that they’d love to see more of these facilities across the state.  

When making modal investments, they stressed the importance of prioritizing services that allow people to access jobs.  This is critical for growing the economy and allowing more young, talented Kansans to be able to stay in or return to their hometowns.

Many participants remarked that they’ve missed regular local consult meetings with KDOT, they appreciate the opportunity to provide input and look forward to the next round of local consult later this year.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

South Central Kansas Local Consult Summary

Let’s make the future work for all of us.

In an uncertain future, the path forward will require us to think regionally, invest multimodally and preserve our infrastructure. 

Those were the key themes that emerged from the South Central region’s Local Consult Round 1:  Visioning Transportation Futures meeting on Tuesday.  About 85 Kansans participated in a scenario planning exercise, and provided input on how transportation investments could best serve their communities in the future.

Participants demonstrated the value of regionalism often by voicing support for projects in communities outside of their own.  And they spoke about the need for future transportation investments to be fair to both urban and rural areas. They also referenced the T-WORKS projects that were delayed due to revenue losses and their desire to see these projects completed as promised. 

“You can’t bring new businesses to the State, if you don’t have a transportation system in good shape, “
– Suzanne Loomis, City Engineer & Director of Public Works for the City of Newton

There was strong recognition that because transportation funding will always be limited, state and local leaders must work together to prioritize needs.  For example, Winfield City Manager Taggart Wall spoke about the need for the West Winfield Bypass.  He indicated originally the project was estimated to cost about $79 million according to KDOT.  However, upon further discussion and evaluation, the community has proposed  a smaller improvement, which could still meet their most pressing needs.  The new, proposed project is slated to cost less than half the original estimate, about $30 million, and will still support the growth in the city.

“Our funding sources rely on traditional models, which are rapidly changing.”
– Joseph Turner, City Administrator for the City of Sedgwick

As they worked through three distinct scenarios about possible futures for Kansas, participants noted that expanding broadband access would be critical in any scenario.  And while there may be uncertainty around how technology will impact our lives going forward– ensuring that all Kansans are better connected to the digital economy should be a top priority of the State, the participants said.

“What’s going to happen as drones become more and more user-friendly?”
– Glenna Borho, Pratt County Commissioner

Expanding mobility is about more than improving highways in south central Kansas.  Many stakeholders referenced the need for investments in transit, rail, aviation and bike/pedestrian improvements.  They mentioned the importance of transit services that allow people to access medical facilities and how offering more bike and pedestrian routes will provide public health benefits.

The Kansans who attended Tuesday’s event also voiced strong support for prioritizing highway preservation in the future.  The challenge for maintaining infrastructure will not only be in our limited resources, but also because we may experience greater demands on our system due to extreme weather.  For example, participants noted that K-14 south of Sterling was closed for multiple weeks this summer due to flooding.  The potential impacts of extreme heat or flooding on our roads and bridges should be considered when making future improvements, they said.

Like their neighbors to the north at the previous day’s meeting, South Central Kansans were concerned about water availability in the future and how that could have enormous implications for where people could live and work.

Despite the uncertainty about the future, it was clear from the discussion that south central Kansans want the State to be proactive in delivering transportation projects and programs. 

Or as one person said better, “why should we wait for things to happen to us? It’s time to make things happen for us.”

North Central Kansas Local Consult Summary:

Don’t wait to shape the future of our state.

That was the message delivered by the more than 80 stakeholders who participated in the North Central region’s Local Consult Round 1:  Visioning Transportation Futures meeting on Monday.

Transportation plays a critical role in many aspects of our lives including one of the most vital – access to health care.  Stakeholders noted that health care access can be improved both through providing more mobility options for Kansans to travel to medical facilities and through expanding broadband across the state to allow more opportunities for telemedicine.

Overheard at the meeting:
“We always talk about preparing for the bad things that may happen, but how do we maximize the joyful opportunities we have in our communities to build the future my children and grandchildren deserve?”

As participants made their way through the scenario planning exercise, they emphasized the importance of ensuring transportation policies and programs are flexible and adaptable enough to capture future economic opportunities and confront unknown challenges.

Overheard at the meeting:
“We need to find ways to keep doing the things we do well such as intermodal facilities, but also give ourselves the flexibility we need to be prepared for the things we don’t know about yet.”

Participants discussed the need to build our system at the right strength in the face of more floods and bad winters. Because Kansas needs to export crops, priority/freight corridors must be built to stand the test of weather challenges.

During the breakout group discussions, stakeholders noted that highway improvements are not the only way to generate economic growth.  The State should consider investing in broadband to generate more economic opportunities across Kansas. And multimodal investments (transit, aviation, rail and bike/ped) are necessary to provide the quality of life needed for communities to thrive.

Participants also noted the concerns about transportation funding both at the state and local levels.  It’s not just about how much revenue will be available but being mindful that tough decisions may be necessary to ensure critical needs are being met.  For example, they noted that Saline County has considered using 2-mile grid to help prioritize roads and bridges it needs to maintain while also ensuring citizens will have the necessary connectivity to be successful.

Stakeholders emphasized that creating partnerships between all levels of government was critical not only for making good policy decisions but also for ensuring we make strategic investments.

The emphasis on partnerships was not limited to government agencies as participants stressed the importance of engaging the private sector.  For example, there may be opportunities to work with Uber and Lyft to expand mobility options across the state.

North Central Kansans had strong concerns about the availability of water in the future.  They noted if Kansans are unable to live in certain areas due to water shortages, it directly impacts both infrastructure needs and the population necessary to support it.

There were also concerns about the need for affordable housing.  Participants suggested there might be a role for KDOT and the State of Kansas to foster public private partnerships to spur more housing development.

Transportation investments are about the future. North Central Kansans want a future that has more mobility options, expands access to healthcare and generates economic growth across the state – and they’re ready to get to work building it– today.

Overheard at the meeting:
“Technology + training + infrastructure + marketing = a state where people want to live and thrive.”

Monday, August 19, 2019

Local Consult meetings begin

We need your voice! Plan to attend a series of Local Consult meetings hosted by the Kansas Department of Transportation. KDOT will provide Kansas an opportunity to help set the vision for transportation for the Sunflower State.  

The discussion begins this afternoon in Salina followed by meetings in Hutchinson, Independence, Overland Park, Topeka, Wichita, Dodge City and Hays.

“This is a transformational time in transportation,” said Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz. “We need your help to chart our success into the future.”

At each meeting attendees will review facts and trends and explore alternative future possibilities through scenario planning. There will also be time to present information about transportation projects that were not discussed during last fall’s Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force meetings.

Check back here each day for updates and summaries of the Local Consult meeting discussions in each region. Look for a recap on the northcentral Kansas Local Consult Meetings in Tuesday’s blog. 

For more information check out our webpage:

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Kansas approved for first Beyond Visual Line of Sight drone flight in the nation

KDOT received the first-ever FAA authorized operation to fly without a requirement of visual observers or ground-based radar. 

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) received permission to conduct the first ever Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operation in the nation leveraging only onboard detect-and-avoid systems. This is the first-ever FAA authorized operation to fly without a requirement for visual observers or ground-based radar and is the result of the 31-member Kansas Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) team efforts to advance drone technologies.

In a collaborative effort between Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus (K-State Polytechnic), Westar Energy, Iris Automation and KDOT, the Kansas IPP team will fly a nine-mile track to evaluate technologies to inspect power lines in rural Kansas. This approval is the first of its kind for long line linear infrastructure and is the first step to enable routine commercial infrastructure inspection across the state.

“The UAS industry has worked over 10 years to demonstrate the most significant commercial benefit of drone operations within the United States,” said Bob Brock, KDOT Director of Aviation. “We are proud of the joint state, university and industry team effort that made this landmark decision possible.”

“The ability to fly BVLOS missions without ground-based radar or visual observers is a significant advancement, and Westar Energy views this as an opportunity to play a key role in shaping the future of UAS operations within the utility industry,” said Mike Kelly, Westar Energy Senior UAS Coordinator. “Being able to operate under this waiver allows the Kansas IPP team the ability to research and develop truly scalable BVLOS UAS operations for the automated inspection of linear infrastructure.”

The Applied Aviation Research Center on the K-State Polytechnic Campus will be responsible for the training and flight operations with a cross-functional team from the KDOT IPP. Flights will take place over the next few months, providing the FAA with much-needed data on true BVLOS activity.

“We look forward to leveraging this waiver to integrate UAS technology into the transmission line inspection process,” said Kurt Carraway, UAS Executive Director of the K-State Polytechnic Applied Aviation Research Center. “We are certain that utilities will be able to quickly realize a return on investment while mitigating safety to their maintenance personnel and increasing the reliability of their infrastructure to the general public.”

This is the first UAV flight in history to leverage onboard sense-and-avoid systems alone for collision avoidance. It also marks the first required automated avoidance action. Historically, all FAA-issued Part 107 BVLOS waivers have required visual observers or ground-based radar. These mitigations limit the possibility of true BVLOS flights, as they are typically prohibitively expensive and limit operations to pre-defined corridor areas with radar coverage. 

This important milestone is facilitated by Kansas UAS IPP partner Iris Automation’s Casia onboard collision avoidance system.

“Flying rural missions like these without a human pilot onboard or costly radar on the ground is exponentially safer and more cost effective,” said Iris Automation CEO and Co-Founder Alexander Harmsen. “The FAA is trusting us to pave the way for a safer, scalable future together with this precedent-setting second approval of our system.”

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Kansas Law Enforcement warns: Don’t drink and drive

Impaired drivers to be tested during “No Refusal Weekend”

Topeka, KS - As the summer season concludes over the next few weeks, Kansas law enforcement will be doing all they can to keep the roads safe from impaired drivers. Beginning on Aug. 14 and through the Labor Day weekend, more than 150 law enforcement agencies from across the state will join forces in a concentrated effort detecting and removing the impaired driver.

This year’s campaign includes a No Refusal Weekend, Aug. 16 – 17, when all suspected impaired drivers who refuse breath testing may be subject to blood testing for alcohol and/or drugs. This No Refusal Weekend, law enforcement officials may work in coordination with prosecutors to obtain blood draw warrants for drivers who refuse breath and/or drug testing. No Refusal programs help ensure that prosecutors obtain the scientific evidence needed to effectively prosecute cases involving impaired driving.

“My hope is there are no impaired driving crashes or fatalities in the state of Kansas,” said Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Herman Jones.  “Make the right decision, don’t get behind the wheel impaired. The impaired driver makes the choice to endanger themselves and everyone else on the road.”

According to the National Safety Council, 40 percent of car fatalities occur in the summer months. The Labor Day holiday brings increased traffic and unfortunately, a higher-than-normal number of deaths related to impaired drivers on the road. On average, impaired drivers cause about one-third of all traffic fatalities in Kansas. Across Kansas, impaired drivers injure or kill more than 2,200 people each year in car crashes.

“We want everyone’s summer to end on a high note and not in a senseless death that is 100 percent preventable,” said Chris Bortz, Kansas Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Program Manager. “Law enforcement will be vigilant in their efforts to keep everyone safe, but everyone has a personal responsibility in this effort; not just law enforcement.”

The 22-day enforcement campaign will be supported with statewide education and on-the-street vigilance by law enforcement.  This year’s campaign reinforces that no excuse is a good excuse for driving impaired. Designate before you celebrate, use a ride sharing service or get a ride from a sober friend are just a few ways to get home safely.

Impaired drivers can face jail time, suspension of their driving privileges, fines and other costs of up to $10,000. In addition, the offender will be required to install and pay monthly services fees on an ignition interlock. Beyond the financial and legal penalties, impaired drivers face the risk of losing their own lives or taking someone else’s.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Stakeholders can discuss future transportation priorities at Local Consult meetings

A series of Local Consult meetings hosted by the Kansas Department of Transportation will give citizens a chance to discuss regional transportation priorities and participate in scenario planning for the future.

“These meetings are an important opportunity for stakeholders to help set the vision for transportation in Kansas,” said Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz.  “This is a transformational time in transportation, and we need you to help chart our success into the future.”

At the meetings, stakeholders will review facts and trends and explore alternative future possibilities through scenario planning. Stakeholders will also have the opportunity to present information about transportation projects not discussed during last fall’s Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force meetings.

“I strongly encourage you to attend KDOT’s upcoming local consult meetings, so we hear your thoughts and create a transportation system that works for all Kansans, regardless of where they live,” said Gov. Laura Kelly.

The Local Consult meetings are scheduled to take place in August in Salina, Hutchinson, Independence, Overland Park, Topeka, Wichita, Dodge City and Hays. A list of the dates, times, locations and a map are below.

To view an invitation to the meetings from Gov. Kelly and Secretary Lorenz, click

If possible, please contact Mike Moriarty, KDOT Chief of Transportation Planning, at 785-296-8864 or to let us know which meeting you plan to attend.

Meeting schedule -
uSalina - Monday, Aug. 19
1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m., Kansas Highway Patrol Academy, 2025 East Iron
uHutchinson - Tuesday, Aug. 20
9 a.m. – Noon, Atrium Hotel & Conference Center, 1400 North Lorraine St.

uIndependence - Wednesday, Aug. 21
9 a.m. – Noon, Independence Civic Center, 410 N. Penn Ave.

uOverland Park - Thursday, Aug. 22
9 a.m. – Noon, Matt Ross Community Center, 8101 Marty Street

uTopeka - Monday, Aug. 26
1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Capital Plaza, 1717 SW Topeka Blvd

uWichita - Tuesday, Aug. 27
9 a.m. – Noon, Eugene Metroplex, 5015 East 29th Street N

uDodge City - Wednesday, Aug. 28
9 a.m. – Noon, Dodge House Convention Center, 2409 W. Wyatt Earp Blvd.

uHays - Thursday, Aug. 29
9 a.m. – Noon; Fort Hays State Union, 700 College Drive

Monday, August 12, 2019

Motoring Monday: Wellington glass museum is colorful, nostalgic

The NDGA National Glass Museum in Wellington features American-made glassware from the late 1800s through midcentury modern.
 A display of Depression-era fishbowls
at the glass museum in Wellington.
At the NDGA National Glass Museum in Wellington, visitors can witness more than every color and shape in antique/vintage glassware.
You might hear someone say something like, “My grandmother had those same drinking glasses!” When visitors see the old glass, it brings back memories, says Pam Meyer, president of the National Depression Glass Association (NDGA) and spokeswoman for the Wellington museum.
“It makes you smile” to hear visitors get nostalgic, Meyer says.
The museum -- at 117 S. Washington, in the heart of Wellington -- is accessible from Interstate 35 and U.S. 160. And it’s free, although donations are accepted.
A display of glass insulators
at the glass museum in Wellington.
Photos courtesy of NDGA National
Glass Museum.

What can you see?  Not only Depression glass from the 1930s but also glassware from the late 1800s and early 1900s to midcentury modern. The collection includes machine-made and hands-on glass. There’s an etched goblet that passed through 75 hands as it was produced. It’s all American-made.
There’s plenty of kitchenware. You can also check out molds and tools used to make glass. And there are antique fruit jars and glass insulators.
Museum hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment. If visitors reach the museum outside those hours, they can call a number listed on the museum door, at a reasonable hour.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

KDOT program will replace, rehabilitate deficient bridges on local road system

Above, Secretary Julie Lorenz and below, Craig
Cox, President of Kansas Association of Counties and
Riley County Deputy Counselor, spoke about benefits
of the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program
to cities and counties at the event announcing
the reinstatement of the program.
The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has reinstated a popular program designed to help replace and rehabilitate city and county deficient bridges. KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz announced the program Aug. 7 at an event in Butler County joined by leaders from the Kansas Association of Counties, the Kansas County Highway Association and the Kansas Contractors Association.
 The Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program is a $5 million state-funded program that helps cities and counties by providing up to $150,000 toward the replacement or rehabilitation of a bridge on the local roadway system. To qualify, bridges must be rated as deficient, have a daily vehicle count of less than 100 and be 20 to 50 feet in length. Cities and counties can garner an additional $50,000 by closing a deficient bridge. Local jurisdictions that are awarded funds must provide a 10 percent match.
“Kansas’ local road system is critical for getting people and goods where they need to go,” said Gov. Laura Kelly regarding the program. “I’m pleased to see state and local government working together and combining resources to replace aging infrastructure - creating healthier communities and economies.”
Funding for the program is part of the $216 million in sales tax authorized by Gov. Kelly to remain in the state highway fund in fiscal year 2020. Those funds will be used to increase highway preservation, help complete delayed T-WORKS projects, improve safety and provide new funding opportunities for cities and counties.                               
“This was a popular program when it was offered in 2014 and I’m very happy that we’re able to bring it back,” said Secretary Lorenz. “Reinstating the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program was one of the top recommendations coming out of last year’s Joint Legislative Vision Task Force and is a great way for us to work together with cities and counties to address needed improvements.”
There are approximately 19,000 bridges on Kansas’ local road systems. About 20 percent – or 3,800 -- of those bridges are in poor condition – or unable to meet today’s weight and vehicle requirements.
Under the previous program, 110 bridges were replaced or permanently closed during the two years it operated.
“The counties are excited and appreciative of this new bridge replacement program,” said Justin Mader, Saline County Engineer and president of the Kansas County Highway Association. “It will be good for agriculture, good for safety, will put construction workers to work and boost the Kansas economy while building and rehabilitating bridges that will benefit Kansas for decades into the future.”
Applications will be accepted through mid-September and KDOT will select projects in early October. Details are posted on KDOT’s website and can be seen at the links below: