Friday, August 30, 2019

Northwest Kansas Local Consult Summary

We want to be in charge of our future.

The pace of change is accelerating, especially in the agriculture industry, and we must be mindful of these shifts in order to make transportation investments that will serve us well now and in the future.  That was the key message delivered at the Northwest region’s Local Consult Round 1:  Visioning Transportation Futures meeting on Thursday in Hays.

This session held the distinction of being the last of eight local consult meetings across the state. With the 75 attendees at Thursday’s meeting, it brings the combined total to approximately 1,100 Kansans who provided input to KDOT this August.  It was quite fitting that the closing message of the session included a call for Kansans to keep their eyes open for the changes ahead and work together to move our state forward.

Overheard at the meeting:
“Quality transportation creates opportunities. A lack of quality transportation kills opportunities.”

Attendees participated in a scenario planning exercise and provided input on how transportation investments could best serve their communities in the future. Like the previous meetings, participants noted the role that transportation improvements can play in increasing safety and generating more economic opportunities.  And they also demonstrated a similar practical approach offered in previous regions for how to stretch limited transportation dollars further.  Phil Smith-Hanes, the Ellis County administrator, talked about the need to find ways to accommodate oversized and superload trucks as they approach the busy retail and service district of Vine Street in Hays. Residents would prefer a complete bypass, he said, but even a downscaled intersection improvement on the city’s northwest side would be helpful.

As they worked through three distinct future scenarios, some participants imagined a future where rail travel could help move people - including seniors - and agricultural products - such as cattle - around the region. If one Kansas producer could move 1,000 cattle at a time from northwest Kansas feed yards to southwest Kansas processing plants by rail instead of truck, “that would be amazing,” a participant said. 

In the more immediate future, however, participants said the current infrastructure needs require the region to rely heavily on good, safe roads. Technology could change that, they agreed, but the roads will likely need to remain a critical piece of the system

Overheard at the meeting:
“You can have all the technology you want, but you’ll still need roads.”

In addition to thinking about how to move agriculture products around and out of the region, it will continue to be important to think about moving workers from home to jobs —especially in rural areas and during times of low unemployment, one group said. 

Participants also stressed the value of both regional hubs and the “spokes” that support those regions.  Having good connections to the amenities throughout the region is important for attracting and retaining people, participants said. For example, one participant mentioned a Phillipsburg resident who works out at a gym in Hays.  The man doesn’t mind traveling 120 miles round trip because it’s a shorter and much easier commute than he had when he worked in a city.  Participants also mentioned that these connections should be multimodal and noted the importance of regional transit.

Overheard at the meeting:
“We can’t be resilient if we’re playing catch-up all the time.”

There was significant discussion about stabilizing revenue sources for both current and future needs.  Participants noted that there were increasing extreme weather events like flooding that warrant keeping our infrastructure well maintained especially as it relates to drainage.  They noted that it’s more costly to recover than properly prepare.  They also acknowledged that it may be important to consider alternative sources of revenue as technology changes.  For example, motor fuel taxes are declining as more vehicles become electric, and that decline in revenue will worsen.  One group discussed the need to consider user fees that are tailored to the type of facility travelers are using.

Similar to previous meeting, participants discussed the importance of making infrastructure improvements to improve safety.  For example, Ross Carter, a county road supervisor for Sheridan County who has a 31-year career as a fire chief in and near Hoxie, said he was particularly concerned about US-23 that connects Selden, Hoxie and I-70.  In his career, he said, he has attended to 22 fatality accidents on that road. The numbers and severities of crashes continue to increase as passenger vehicles share the road with an increasing number of trucks serving the area’s agriculture industry.

In a discussion that called for attendees to envision what Kansas will be like in 2045, it was very fitting that a college student took the opportunity to share his concerns. Thomas Nelson, a senior at Fort Hays State University from Hutchinson who is studying international business and economics, spoke in favor of the project known as the Northwest Passage that would connect Wichita and Hutchinson to Sterling, Great Bend and Hays and other communities in central and western Kansas.

Regardless of the scenario, participants discussed the value of rural and urban communities working together.  They noted that the state’s overall success is tied to large and small communities supporting each other.

The wrap up discussion included a call for holistic connections – meaning a multimodal system that works seamless and allows regional hubs and spokes to thrive.  KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz concluded the discussion by thanking everyone across the state for participating in these discussions.   It was clear from all these discussions, that Kansas are truly looking forward to building a future that works for all of us.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Southwest Kansas Local Consult Summary

A brighter future requires safer and better connections for people and freight.

That was the key takeaway from the Southwest region’s Local Consult Round 1:  Visioning Transportation Futures meeting on Wednesday in Dodge City.

About 155 Southwest Kansans participated in a scenario planning exercise and provided input on how transportation investments could best serve their communities now and in the future.  Participants strongly advocated for highway safety improvements and were open to a variety of practical strategies for doing so such as adding shoulders, passing lanes or freeways.  The most important thing was to make some improvements in the short-term while allowing greater improvements in the future, they said.  Due to the rural nature of southwest Kansas, residents generally must make longer trips, which can lead to more distracted driving, they said.

“You’re out in God’s Country and you’re distracted because you’re looking at other things – and all of sudden you’re in an intersection.”
-Tina Pendergraft, Director of Nursing, Trauma Coordinator & Emergency Preparedness Officer at Satanta District Hospital

Southwest Kansans were concerned about creating better connections to regional and area hubs – as well as other regions across the state.  This is important for economic development, they noted.  However, the need for better connections went beyond roads.  As they discussed new technologies, participants noted that currently some areas of Southwest Kansas are unable to receive same-day deliveries. Utilizing drone deliveries for small freight could potentially fill this service gap in the future, they said.  The technology discussion extended to broadband where participants noted that some families subscribe to multiple internet providers because they can’t access reliable service. 

As they worked through three distinct future scenarios, participants stressed the importance of making investments that could create a ripple effect throughout the region.  For example, Katie Eisenhour, executive director of the Scott County Development Committee Inc., spoke about how her community would look to build upon the growth in the Garden City and Dodge City areas.  She noted there are vibrant areas in southwest Kansas and communities should find ways to collaborate to create more opportunities across the region.

“We win when we win together.”
- Katie Eisenhour, Executive Director for Scott County Development Committee Inc.

Wednesday’s discussions served as the penultimate for this round of KDOT local consult meetings.  To date, more than 1,000 Kansans have participated in these input sessions. And, the Southwest meeting held the distinction of having the youngest participant yet – a three-year-old attendee, who was much welcomed and was a helpful reminder that transportation investments should serve us today and well into the future. 

In their discussions about how future changes could impact southwest Kansas, participants were particularly focused on how the agriculture industry may shift. As one group noted, the future may be as much about finished products as it is raw commodities, and we need to think about the transportation implications of that change.  Regardless, participants noted that agriculture would continue to be a staple of the region’s economy and we must continue to find ways to serve it.

“Kansans will still need to eat no matter where they live. My vision is for southwest Kansas to continue to be an agricultural hub and we need safe, good highways to do that.”
-        Ada Linenbroker, Seward County Commissioner

Ada Linenbroker, Seward County Commissioner, stated that to be successful, Kansas would need to find the balance between serving immediate needs while also adopting long-term strategies.  Participants referenced safety improvements and highway maintenance and preservation as examples of immediate needs that must be met.  They pointed out that infrastructure is deteriorating faster than it used to, which is causing preservation needs to increase.

In any future scenario, participants noted that having enough revenue and ensuring it is distributed strategically across the state would be a challenge.  They noted that technological advancements may be a way to combat this. 

Finally, participants discussed the difficulties of finding a balance in how transportation services are delivered.  For example, a highway needs to serve people and the flow of commerce.  At times, these can be competing interests operating in the same small space, but for a transportation system to work well, it needs to find a way to serve both interests. Or as one group noted, “We need a transportation system that works well and most importantly is safe for people and freight.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wichita Metro Local Consult Summary

In the future, we can be healthier, if we are flexible, adaptable and multimodal.

That was the message that emerged from the Wichita Metro’s Local Consult Round 1:  Visioning Transportation Futures meeting on Tuesday.  About 135 Kansans participated in a scenario planning exercise and provided input on how transportation investments could best serve their communities in the future. 

Throughout the discussion, participants emphasized the importance of collaboration and compromise.  They noted that the importance of the State and local governments working together to fund projects. 

For example, Gary Plummer, President and CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, noted that Wichita and Sedgwick County have contributed about $140 million in local match for the last two state transportation programs.  Participants also noted that making infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather will increase costs and we must prepare for that.

The emphasis on health and wellness related to not only making existing modes of travel safer but also in encouraging walking or biking to improve public health.  However, as Jane Byrnes, a Wichita resident, stated more work is needed to make pedestrians— especially children, safer.  She noted that the existing Safe Routes to School program is helpful, but more projects and initiatives need to be implemented.  Crosswalks near elementary schools should be a priority, she said.

“Active Transportation isn’t healthy, if it’s not safe, especially for children. We could enable active transportation for every Kansan in the future.”
-        Jane Byrnes, Wichita resident

Participants stressed the importance of utilizing multimodal approaches when addressing challenges, including congestion.  Tom Brown, the mayor of McPherson, noted that creating a regional transit network would help more people gain access to jobs.  McPherson has many jobs available, but Kansans from nearby communities are unable to fill them because they have no transportation to our city, he said.

“They (Wichita) have the people we need to supply our jobs and we need ways to get them to our town.”
-Tom Brown, Mayor of McPherson

Participants also noted that they must be open to new technologies and approaches to delivering services. For example, Michael Tann, Wichita Transit Director, said that Wichita has recently begun the process of electrifying its bus fleet.  The city has ordered 11 electric buses and plans to purchase more as funding becomes available.
The emphasis on multimodal also extended to the importance of short-line railroads.  Pat Cedeno, Watco Transportation Services, said “short-line railroads are the regional airlines of the rail industry.”

“Multimodal solutions are about giving people access they didn’t have previously and access to markets that businesses wouldn’t otherwise see.”
-Pat Cedeno, Watco Transportation Services

Like previous local consult meetings, participants also emphasized the importance of expanding broadband access and making our infrastructure compatible with the latest technologies.  They noted that while how people choose to travel may change in the future, freight corridors will still be needed and should be prioritized.  They noted the importance of planning for the needs of rural and urban communities in future and were particularly interested in how agriculture may shift with new technological advances.

As they worked through three distinct future scenarios, participants questioned how to create a system where active transportation, technology and freight distribution all work could together in small space.  They noted that as more goods and services continue to be delivered on-demand, people may come to expect transportation to be delivered the same manner.  Regardless of what the future brings, participants stressed the importance of future transportation programs and policies being flexible and adaptable to seize opportunities and confront challenges. 

Finally, participants insisted that future requires us break out of our silos and work together regionally. Or as one group noted, “We need to work together to build a multimodal system that allows people and freight to travel seamlessly.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Northeast Kansas Local Consult Summary

There’s a need for planning, collaboration and policy changes to build the future we want.

A future transportation system should provide greater flexibility in decision-making, encourage partnerships and deliver more mobility options for everyone.  Those were the key themes that emerged the Northeast region’s Local Consult Round 1:  Visioning Transportation Futures meeting on Monday in Topeka. 

Community leaders from cities large and small stressed the importance of increasing connectivity by investing in pedestrian and bike paths.  The need for greater walkability in communities is critical both for allowing current citizens to access more services and for attracting new residents to Kansas, participants said.

We want to be part of the solution, when it comes to alternatives for transportation.  If someone doesn’t want to drive somewhere in our town, we don’t want them to have to.”
-        Leslie Herring, Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Eudora

Julie Steward, a Lawrence resident, spoke about how often transit services are often focused on the elderly, but increasing mobility is critical for all Kansans, especially for those in wheelchairs.

(Accessibility) “is something that is important today. This is an issue in everyone’s life if you want a community that is integrated.”
-        Julie Steward, Lawrence resident

About 210 Kansans participated in discussions about the transportation needs of their communities both today and in the future.  Recognizing that funding is limited, participants were practical and offered suggestions for how to make more incremental improvements at less cost.  Curt Niehaus, director of public works for Shawnee County, while advocating for the expansion of K-4 in Shawnee County, referenced the importance of phasing for projects.  For example, he said that constructing a 2-lane highway on a 4-lane right-of-way would serve as an immediate improvement at less cost than a 4-lane freeway while also allowing for future growth in the next phase. 

Participants also noted that state and local partnerships were important for stretching transportation dollars.  For example, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce indicated its support for local contribution to help complete the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Like the previous local consult meetings, participants were concerned about traffic safety. They noted that many communities in the northeast region are growing quickly and that increased traffic creates more safety concerns.  For highways, they mentioned adding shoulders or passing lanes can be effective for improving safety at less cost.  Safety concerns also extended to areas with highway pedestrian traffic near major roadways.

As they worked through three distinct future scenarios, participants emphasized the importance of regional collaboration. That included being proactive in making investments in regional hubs and by being able to deliver seamless trips regardless of the mode of transportation.

 “We think it’s important to talk about aligning priorities. We want to talk about aligning KDOT’s regional transportation system and our local economic development priorities such as access to downtown from I-70.”
-        Jason Peek, Public Works Director for the City of Topeka

No matter the future scenario, participants stressed the importance of workforce development. That included ensuring we are generating enough job opportunities for our citizens and that we’re providing the right education and training to serve those jobs.  They also noted that if changing weather patterns encourage more migration to Kansas from coastal cities in the future - those people could bring new talents and ideas that the State should take advantage of for economic development. 

And these potential new residents may also have increased mobility expectations, which will be important for the State to meet in order to attract those people.

Finally, participants stressed the importance of having proper planning to ensure smart growth or smart shrinkage depending on what the future holds. Or as one group said, as communities shrink or grow, we need to make smart investments.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Second week of KDOT Local Consult Meetings begins

KDOT officials traveled 491 miles and visited four different communities during the first week of the Local Consult Meetings. More than 500 Kansans and stakeholders attended the first round of meetings and provided input for how Kansas can move forward.

Together, attendees and KDOT staff were able to discuss what a modern transportation system requires and how to make sure jobs and opportunities will be available. Other topics, like safety, healthcare, technological needs and changes, investing in multi-modal transportation and the partnership required for both urban and rural communities.

As we turn our focus to the next half of the local consult meetings, there will be even more important conversations. As we look forward to the future of Kansas, we know that collaboration will continue to make our state strong.

Here is the schedule for this week’s Local Consult Meetings, we hope to see you there!

Northeast Region
Monday, Aug. 26, 2019
1:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Capital Plaza Hotel
1717 SW Topeka Blvd.
Topeka, Kansas

Wichita Metro Region
Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019
9 a.m. - noon
Eugene Hughes Metroplex
5015 East 29th Street N
Wichita, Kansas

Southwest Region
Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019
9 a.m. - noon
Dodge House Convention Center
2409 West Wyatt Earp Blvd.
Dodge City, Kansas

Northwest Region
Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019
9 a.m. - noon
Fort Hays State University
Memorial Union
700 College Drive
Hays, Kansas

You can catch up on all of the blogs from last week at the following links.

Kansas City Metro Region

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 be 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 a 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.”