Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Keep an eye out: Parking lot safety is important

By Lisa Knoll
Southwest Kansas 
Public Affairs Manager

Think your holiday purchases are the only things that need extra protection during the holiday season?  Think again.  According to the National Safety Council, over 50,000 collisions occur in parking lots each year, resulting in 500 or more deaths and over 60,000 injuries.

Searching for a parking spot in a busy parking lot, which could be covered in ice or snow during the holidays is difficult.  Add to that the fact that 66% of drivers say they are texting, talking on the phone and checking their car’s GPS all while driving through busy parking lots.  Then add the distracted pedestrian who is texting, talking, taking selfies, posting, and it’s easy to understand how dangerous parking lots have become.

“Don’t let a parking lot incident spoil your holiday season”, said KDOT’s Traffic Safety Manager, Chris Bortz.  “It’s important that drivers not be lulled into complacency in a parking lot.  Even though speeds are reduced, there are still multiple hazards in a parking lot and it’s important for drivers and pedestrians to remain vigilant at all times.”

As you head out this holiday season, and any other season, keep in mind these safety tips from the National Safety Council:

  • Stay in lanes and avoid cutting across parking spaces
  • Drive slowly and use directional signals
  • Anticipate the actions of other drivers and pedestrians
  • Obey stop signs and no-parking signs
  • When backing out, be mindful of vehicles and pedestrians
  • Watch for small children and parents with baby strollers
  • It's best to conduct a quick, 360-degree walk-around your vehicle before backing, keeping an eye out for low-lying objects
  • Don't rely completely on technology; look over your shoulder and use your mirrors as you back up
  • When parking, pull through on arrival whenever possible, so that you can drive forward out of the parking space instead of reversing out of the parking space
  • Respect handicap parking spots

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday shopping season.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Holiday travel tips: Is your car winter ready?

You should always be prepared to travel with an emergency kit like this one! 

Are you planning to travel for the holidays this winter?  We may have already had our first snows of the year. but soon we will have to think about more than just what holiday lights to install.  And because some of us may be traveling several miles for that Thanksgiving meal, family Christmas or other holiday event, things can get hectic. To make sure you arrive safely, it is important to take some time and prepare your vehicle. In addition to filling up your gas tank and checking your tires, recommends before your trip, you or a mechanic check the following on your vehicle
  •  Antifreeze levels
  • Battery and ignition system
  • Brakes
  •  Exhaust system
  •  Fuel and air filters
  • Heater and defroster
  •  Lights and flashing hazard lights
  •  Oil
  •   Thermostat
  • Windshield wiper equipment and washer fluid level

What if all the necessary maintenance has been completed on your vehicle but you punctured a tire or slid off an icy road into a snowbank during a snow storm?  You can be prepared by having an emergency kit with the right items, which can help keep you comfortable until help arrives to get you back on the road.

The emergency kit in your vehicle should be checked every six months and expired items should be replaced as needed. Here are some essential items we suggest having in your vehicle’s emergency kit:

  • First aid kit with bandages in multiple sizes, gauze pads, tape, antibiotic cream, over-the-counter pain relievers, allergy medicine, hand sanitizer, and cotton swabs
  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Jumper cables
  • Drinking water 
  • Non-perishable snacks such as nuts
  • Warm clothing or blankets
  • Multi-purpose tool or tool kit
  • Road flares or reflective warning triangles
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Small fire extinguisher
  • Charged cell phone with family and emergency phone numbers
  • Cell phone charger
  • Spare Tire and tools to help change it

Once you have all this completed, you’re ready to travel safe this winter! Make sure you know before you go, by checking road conditions at

Friday, November 22, 2019

2019 local consult meetings wrap up in Liberal and Colby

Let’s work together to deliver a safer transportation system that benefits us all.

This was the takeaway message from the local consult meetings in Liberal and Colby this week.  With the completion of these two meetings, KDOT has now hosted 16 local consult meetings across the state this summer and fall.  And, it is fitting that more than 200 western Kansans concluded the discussions by expressing their support for these meetings to continue every two years.

“With the information compiled from the last round of Local Consults, it seemed easier to grasp the big picture of Southwest Kansas transportation during this round. I was encouraged by participants advocating for each other’s projects.  Together, we rationalized and prioritized based upon need and not individual interests.”                                            Katie Eisenhour, Scott City Development

KDOT used the input gathered at the first round of Local Consult meetings in August to shape not only the public input sessions currently underway, but also the next major state transportation plan— known as FORWARD. The second round of meetings are designed to make sure we are on the right track with FORWARD’s design – and help us better understand regional priorities for highway expansion and modernization projects.

The power of these meetings was on display in Liberal when participants began their breakout discussion stating that the region did not need a transit program, but upon further conversation, realized not only does the region benefit from existing transit service – it could use more in the future.

Participants also provided feedback about how KDOT could improve its business practices, which will allow the state to solve more transportation problems.  Participants recommended creating more flexibility among the set-aside and modal programs to allow for more comprehensive transportation improvements.  For example, there may be an aviation project that also needs highway infrastructure improvements nearby – and participants would prefer for KDOT to address both together. They also expressed support for practical improvements and passing lanes, which allow for more cost-efficient solutions. The agency should review its routing process for oversized/overweight roads to makes sure it still supports today’s needs, they said.

Themes heard across the meetings include:
  • Safety can be both a local and regional need and it should drive priorities.  While many stakeholders have concerns about intersections or lack of shoulders on the highways they travel locally, they also acknowledge that their concerns extend throughout the region.  For example, there are southwest Kansans who attend Kansas State University and must travel across the region and state to attend school – and thus it’s important for the entire trip to be as safe as it can be.                                                 
  • In addition to prioritizing projects, it may be beneficial to prioritize the needs within a project.  Northwest Kansans acknowledged that it may be more beneficial to do smaller improvements throughout the region rather than one long corridor. For example, they encourage KDOT analyze which areas of a project have the biggest safety needs – and look for ways to do spot improvements such as removing a steep hill or improving an intersection.

  • KDOT should provide more education and communication about all the programs it offers.  Participants expressed support for existing and new programs proposed in FORWARD but encouraged the agency to provide more outreach, so communities understand what resources are available.
Priorities for the highway pipeline. During the breakout sessions, participants were asked to prioritize highway modernization and expansion needs in their regions. Participants were split into different groups and asked to identify which projects would be considered a high or medium priority.  The charts below show the results of this exercise.  The left-hand columns each represent one breakout group’s recommendations.

The FORWARD Advisory Group requested that we ask participants at the Local Consult meetings about ideas for funding this significant transportation program.  Participants emphasized the importance of making sure that heavy trucks, which place more wear on highway infrastructure should pay their fair share.  They suggested increasing fees on oversight/overweight permits to combat this.  Some participants expressed support for eliminating the property lid exemption for transportation and for exploring road usage fees.  There was strong support for protecting transportation revenues and eliminating State Highway fund transfers.

Thank you, we will be back!  More than 1,1000 Kansans participated in round one and we had over 800 attendees in round two. The input you provided was incredibly helpful in shaping FORWARD and for helping us better serve Kansas in the future.  In coming months, staff will analyze what we heard across the state and craft strategies to put your feedback into action.  Stay tuned for updates about our progress.  While our next round of local consult meetings will be held in 2021, we will have ongoing dialogue with you to keep you informed.   We’re excited to work with closely with communities to find solutions to problems and deliver better service across the state.

Thank you again for helping us all move FORWARD!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thankful for seat belt safety

Make sure to Click it. Or ticket. this holiday season

TOPEKA, Kan. – The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest seasons for America’s roads. With millions of drivers traveling near and far for Thanksgiving dinner, it’s more important than ever to stress the importance of seat belt safety. To keep drivers and their passengers safe, the Kansas Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies across the state are working around the clock to ensure Thanksgiving travelers are wearing their seat belts.

The high-visibility “Click it. Or ticket.” campaign aims to reduce the number of fatalities that occur when vehicle passengers fail to buckle up. In 2018 in Kansas, 127 unrestrained people died in motor vehicle crashes. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with the simple click of a seat belt. In Kansas, pick-up truck drivers and drivers in rural areas are among the top unrestrained fatalities.

With thousands of Kansans traveling to visit friends and family for the Thanksgiving holiday, law enforcement across Kansas will have an increased effort during this high travel week. The high-visibility crackdown will run from Nov. 22 through the holiday weekend. If they spot you, they will pull you over and issue a citation.

“It’s our greatest hope that our community members make it to their Thanksgiving destinations safely,” said Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz. “Our goal is 100% compliance every trip, every time. Help us and your communities drive to zero fatalities on Kansas roadways this holiday season.”

The “Click it. Or ticket.” campaign is funded by a federal grant administered by KDOT. The crackdown runs concurrently with a media campaign reminding motorists that wearing your seatbelt is the law, even in the backseat. And, it's your best defense in a crash. So, please drive responsibly and ride safely. For more information about traveling safely this Thanksgiving, please visit for more information. 

For continuously updated road conditions check 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

South central Kansans provide input at local consult meetings

Take care of our existing infrastructure and have flexibility for the future.

That was the key theme delivered by nearly 200 south central Kansans at Wichita and Great Bend Local Consult meetings.

“I liked what I heard today about a two-year process. Things are just moving too fast to get locked into a 10-year process.” -  Andrew Lawson, City of Arkansas City

KDOT used the input gathered at the first round of Local Consult meetings in August to shape not only the public input sessions currently underway, but also the next major state transportation plan— known as FORWARD. The second round of meetings are designed to make sure we are on the right track with FORWARD’s design – and help us better understand regional priorities for highway expansion and modernization projects.

Participants also provided feedback about how KDOT could improve its business models, which would allow the state to solve more transportation problems.  South central Kansans expressed support for practical solutions that would allow more improvements to be made at less cost.  For example, several stakeholders noted that passing lanes can alleviate congestion at much less cost than 4-lane expressways.  They also noted there are existing passing lanes that need to be longer, such as on U.S. 54 where extended passing lanes are needed to accommodate wind turbine traffic.

“There’s a lot of value in passing lanes.” -  Les Mangnus, City of Andover

Themes heard across the meetings include:
Transit and bike/pedestrian paths are critical for accessibility and improved quality of life.  Participants expressed that these modes are important for communities of all sizes.  They also expressed the need for bike and pedestrian accommodations to be considered at the start of major highway projects.

Airport investments have a major impact.  Or as one participant said, “A mile of road gets you a mile of travel, but a mile of runway gets you anywhere.”

Expand some local programs to cover more needs.  Participants supported adding technology improvements as a component of the new Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program.  And they expressed support for adding passenger rail to the rail program.

Combine set-aside programs to allow more flexibility.  Since the Local Bridge, CCLIP, Cost Share and Economic Development programs serve similar needs, participants expressed support for combining these programs to allow communities more options to receive funding for improvements.

Priorities for the highway pipeline. During the breakout sessions, participants were asked to prioritize highway modernization and expansion needs in their regions. Participants were split into different groups and asked to identify which projects would be considered a high or medium priority.  The charts below show the results of this exercise.  The left-hand columns each represent one breakout group’s recommendations.

The FORWARD Advisory Group requested that we ask participants at the Local Consult meetings about ideas for funding this significant transportation program.  Participants emphasized that it would be important to leverage more local dollars to help fund transportation, but the property tax lid in state statute hinders the ability for local communities to raise revenues.  In addition, they expressed the importance of utilizing tolling where applicable, and noted that it was important to protect revenue sources for highway preservation.

The final Local Consult meetings are taking place in Liberal and Colby this week.  While this round of Local Consult will wrap up soon, KDOT will stay engaged with communities about any developments related to FORWARD.

And we look forward to seeing you in western Kansas this week.

Waiting for Big Boy: Historical train moves across the country, stops in Kansas

Audience members wait for the arrival of Big Boy No. 4014 as it enters Coffeyville.

It was 3 p.m. Saturday, and they were waiting at the Coffeyville depot. Parents with babies in strollers. Older folks, some using walkers. Young people with their coffee. Couples with curious dogs. High-spirited youth who scrambled to collect leftover railroad spikes from rocky areas along the tracks. Locals and out-of-towners, a few setting up lawn chairs and settling in. People who had chased the train as it made previous stops in Oklahoma. The gathering had begun.

The cause of all this excitement was the anticipated arrival of Union Pacific’s grand old steam locomotive, Big Boy No. 4014. One of 25 Big Boy locomotives built for the UP Railroad, No. 4014 was in operation from 1941-61 and logged over 1 million miles. In 2013, UP bought back No. 4014 from the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, Calif. The train was then relocated to Cheyenne, Wyo., for restoration and returned to service last May in honor of t the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Big Boy No. 4014, one of 25 Big Boy Locomotives  steams past attendees.

Big Boy is 132 feet long and weighs 1.2 million pounds. The frame of the locomotive is ‘hinged’ to more easily negotiate curves in the tracks. It has 24 wheels. The first four wheels serve as pilots to guide the engine, followed by two sets of eight driver wheels and another four wheels to support the back of the locomotive.

It was nearing 4 o’clock, and still they came to the depot. Social media reports streamed north from followers in Oklahoma. Big Boy was reported at Claremore, then stopped at Nowata, and running behind schedule. The stated time of arrival at Coffeyville, 4:30, came and went without No. 4014. Folks lined the tracks, gazing south through the trees. Straining to see a light, to hear the whistle. UP workers and police worked up and down the rails, shooing people back and warning of a scalding steam bath should anyone get too close.

Now the time was almost 5 p.m., with a lavender sky and darkness encroaching. It was getting chilly, with all watching and waiting. The reports were still flowing in – now north of Delaware, north of Lenapah … and finally, a steady glowing light could be seen as Big Boy made its way on the tracks along U.S. 169. The low, husky whistle sounded – and there at last was the majestic locomotive steaming and ringing through the twilight.

A multitude of cameras and cell phones captured No. 4014 as it rolled up the tracks and parked, letting off ample bursts of steam. The crush of people assembled around the engine, held their cellphones up for that perfect photo and lifted children to their shoulders for a closer look.

As evening fell, the crowd continued to mill around the mammoth train and savor the shared experience. Once people started to filter out of the depot, their empty parking spots were swiftly filled with new arrivals. Big Boy would not lack for company on a Saturday night in southeast Kansas.

Big Boy 4014 comes to a complete stop and the crowd is allowed to mill around the locomotive for a closer look.

UP’s Great Race Across the Southwest continues with stops throughout Kansas this week. View the schedule at this link:

Monday, November 18, 2019

New signs will highlight U.S. Bicycle Routes 76, 66 across Kansas

Officials unveil the new U.S. Bicycle Routes 76 and 66 at the event on Thursday. There will be more than 900 new signs installed along the route throughout the state.  

Highway signs that will help show the way for U.S. Bicycle Routes (USBR) 76 and 66

throughout Kansas were unveiled today at an event along Historic Route 66 in Riverton as part of the sign initiative currently underway.

“Signage is beneficial because it provides wayfinding for cyclists and it alerts motorists to
diligently be aware of and respectful to cyclists sharing the road,” said Kansas Department of Transportation Planning and Development Director Chris Herrick. Other speakers included Bourbon County Economic Development Director Jody Hoener, Cherokee County Sheriff Groves and Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Patrick Tuttle.

More than 900 new road/highway signs will be placed across Kansas marking the two bicycle routes. These routes in Kansas were approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), as a result of collaborative efforts between KDOT and the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA), beginning in 2015. The USBR system connects bicycle routes across the country for safer, long-distance cycling.

USBR 76 is also known as the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. It extends more than 480 miles and runs from Greely County on the Colorado border to Crawford County on the Missouri border. The Kansas stretch of USBR 66 is 13 miles long and runs through the southeast corner of the state.

“Thousands of cyclists ride these routes through Kansas every year offering great tourist
opportunities for the over 30 communities they pass through, especially rural towns,” said

KDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Jenny Kramer. “Many towns take advantage of this opportunity for economic growth and development by making their towns more bicycle-friendly and creating attractive resting and overnight spots for travelers.”

Sign installation will begin in spring 2020 and should all be placed by June. KDOT has
developed signing plans to assist with installation along the state and local systems. In
addition, KDOT plans to release the 2020-21 Kansas Bicycle Map by next summer.

For more information on KDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program and resources on cycling in Kansas, go to:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cyclists to give back this weekend in Topeka

‘Tis the season of giving! This year marks the 7th annual Cranksgiving in Topeka. What is 
Cranksgiving? It’s the perfect combination of a fun bike ride and a charitable food drive, and it isn’t just a Topeka thing.

Every year cities across the U.S. host their own version of a Cranksgiving event, helping to stock pantries and provide other much needed supplies for their communities. In 2018, more than 150 cities participated in Cranksgiving to support local food banks, helping to feed thousands of families.

While the overall purpose of Cranksgiving is the same in each city, the individual events take on their own identities.

In Topeka, participants can compete in a race against the clock to pick up as many grocery items that will fit on their bike or they can take part in a non-competitive, family-friendly, slow-paced group ride called “The Haul” for a one-stop shop to purchase grocery items with donated funds. In the last three years, Topeka’s Cranksgiving participants have continued to increase the amount of food collected by bike:

2016 - 310 pounds
2017 - 540 pounds
2018 - 720 pounds
Come support Topeka and help reach a new record weight! This year’s Cranksgiving event is on Sunday, Nov. 17 at The Burger Stand at College Hill. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. and race will begin at 1pm. For more details, and ways you can get involved, visit:

Topeka’s Cranksgiving is brought to you by Topeka Community Cycle Project and The Burger Stand at College Hill. All donations will be used to support the Doorstep Topeka: Topeka’s Home for Hope.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

KDOT conducts first UAS flight without visual observers

Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz addresses the crowd about the importance of investing
in our future success with aviation.

It’s another first in the U.S. for the Kansas Department of Transportation as the Division of Aviation conducted its first unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flights without visual observers and using only onboard detect-and-avoid systems.

Kansas has a proud tradition of recognizing the opportunities that can be achieved through the skies,” said. Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers. “Implementing new technology is never easy, but KDOT is up to the challenge.”

Aviation is a vital mode of transportation in Kansas that supports thousands of jobs, transports good across the state and improves safety through access to air ambulance service.

“The investments we make in aviation are not only important for our economy today, but they’re critical for future success,” Secretary Lorenz said. “I look forward to working with all of you to build transportation infrastructure that will propel our state to the next level.”

KDOT was selected in May 2018 by the U.S. DOT as one of only 10 organizations in the nation to lead the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP), an initiative aimed at shaping the future of drones. In August 2018, KDOT flew the first beyond the line of sight UAS flight under the program.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Highway Safety 101: Don’t get lulled over

Technical Trooper Chad Crittenden pulls over to watch traffic near I-235 and Zoo Boulevard in Wichita.

By Tim Potter
Southcentral Kansas 
Public Affairs Manager

I’m belted comfortably into the passenger seat of a gleaming, heavily equipped Kansas Highway Patrol SUV. It’s one of those sun-drenched fall days when a driver can see for miles. It’s a perfect time for traveling, on highways engineered for ease and safety.

The person driving me around the Wichita area in a 2018 Ford Interceptor Utility is an expert driver -- Technical Trooper Chad Crittenden. He’s been patrolling state highways as a trooper for more than 16 years. He teaches defensive driving.

Yet, even on days like these, people still die or get maimed on Kansas highways.

“Complacency,” Crittenden says without hesitating. Complacency is a dominating factor in car crashes that he responds to in the Wichita metro area.

By complacency, he means the situation where a driver gets lulled into a false sense of security. They’ve never been in a bad accident. They assume the driver on the side road will not suddenly pull out in front of them. To compound the risks, they might not wear a seat belt. They might drive while on their cell phone, chatting, texting or fidgeting with the radio or comfort controls. So far, the multitasking has led to nothing tragic. So they keep doing it, eyes and brain diverted as they cruise at 60, 70, 75 … 

“We’re not as focused as we possibly should be,” Crittenden says. “You have to be looking here and there,” he says, his eyes scanning back and forth as he motors west on K-254 past a side road. It’s the same spot where two vehicles collided with fatal consequences a few months back.

According to Kansas traffic statistics, the by-far biggest single factor in crashes during 2017 was inattention.

That same year, most accidents occurred during daylight hours, 63 percent; in good weather conditions, 88 percent; with dry pavement, 87 percent; and where the road was straight and level, 77 percent.

To Crittenden, winning the game of safe driving starts with a mindset, a discipline – to always be prepared to survive when the unexpected happens. It includes practicing the most basic death-defying thing that people keep ignoring – wearing a seat belt.
How does he enforce safe habits?

From his driver seat near I-235 and Central, he zeros in on a small, white Nissan sedan because he can see that the woman driving it is not wearing her seat belt. She quickly pulls over after he activates his flashing lights, and he will issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt but only warn her for not signaling a lane change.

When he tells her why he stopped her, she says about the seat belt, “I just left class. I think I forgot. … I remembered it when I saw your lights, though.”

He suggests that she stick a note on her dash to remind herself to buckle up. “Yeah, I guess,” she good-naturedly replies. “Please wear your seat belt,” he responds. “OK,” she says. “Thank you.”

Not all drivers react so politely. “Don’t you have anything better to do?” the rude ones say. Some still contend it’s their “right” not to wear a seat belt.

Technical Trooper Chad Crittenden stops a driver along I-135 for an expired license tag. For his safety with passing traffic, he stands to the passenger side of the vehicle while talking to the driver. 

In teaching safety, Crittenden urges his defensive-driving students to avoid the situation that often causes aggressive driving: leaving late and giving in to the urge to drive too fast and on edge. So he reminds his students to leave early and avoid the aggression and stress.

It comes down to this, he says: Patience saves lives. It translates to not speeding around every car, maybe waiting a second or two longer and passing safely, under control.
When he exits onto a ramp, for example, he checks his mirror to make sure someone isn’t closing in on him too quickly. He’s alert to the potential danger of impatient drivers.
And then it happens: Minutes after he talks about the importance of staying patient, while driving east on K-96 approaching Rock Road, he notices a car right behind his marked patrol unit.

The driver “is in a hurry,” he says. “She’s going to tailgate a trooper,” he exclaims, before she veers off onto the exit ramp to Rock, seemingly oblivious to or unfazed by the traffic safety enforcer in front of her.

She was lucky this time.

Another thing that should be part of the mindset, part of preparation for driving: Getting enough sleep. Crittenden views a drowsy driver as being just as dangerous as a drunken driver. The only difference is the legality.

So while teaching his defensive-driving classes, he asks his students how many of them got eight hours of sleep the night before.
Only a few raise their hands.

Friday, November 8, 2019

More than 200 people participate in Kansas City and Topeka local consult meetings this week

Increased flexibility allows KDOT to meet more needs and deliver better transportation services across the state.

The more than 200 northeast Kansans who gathered in Topeka and Kansas City emphasized the importance of flexibility during the second round of Local Consult meetings this week.

KDOT used the input gathered at the first round of Local Consult meetings in August to shape not only the public input sessions that are underway now, but also the next major state transportation plan, known as FORWARD. The second round of meetings is designed to make sure we are on the right track with FORWARD’s design – and to make sure we better understand regional priorities for expansion and modernization projects.
Participants also provided feedback about how KDOT could improve its business models and solve more transportation problems.  The pent-up demand for transportation was evident once again with one breakout group summing up its discussion by stating, “we’re ready to cost share, ready to discuss project scopes – and ready to get things done.”

Themes heard across the meetings include:
  • Make funding for modal and set-aside programs more flexible to meet more needs. Participants stressed that in some years you may have more needs in one area than others –rather than allocating specific amounts to each program every year, KDOT should have the ability to increase or reduce funding levels depending on the immediate needs. Participants also suggested finding ways to combine funds between programs to create more multimodal solutions.

  • Increase funding for the Cost-Share program – but that can’t be the only answer. The newly launched Cost-Share program is popular among Kansans, however, participants also acknowledged that not every community has the resources to contribute the necessary funding match. Thus, it’s important that the increasing funding for the program is not at the expense of other local programs that communities rely on.

  •  Develop common-sense business improvements, like streamlining the application process for Local Programs. Currently, there are different application deadlines for the various programs KDOT offers.  Participants recommended the agency adopt one comprehensive, online application that would allow projects to be considered for multiple programs. In addition, they encouraged the agency to offer a refresher course to educate the public on the various programs/resources that are available to communities.

  •  Consider new approaches and programs.  Northeast Kansans were supportive of passing lanes as a cost-effective approach to improve congestion and they encouraged exploring alternative delivery methods for major projects.  They also recommended adding an environmental spending category and expanding the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program to include an innovative technology component.

Priorities for the highway pipeline. During the breakout sessions, participants were asked to prioritize highway modernization and expansion needs in the Northeast region of Kansas, which includes both urban and rural areas. Participants were divided into different groups and asked to identify which projects would be consider a high or medium priority, based on their knowledge of local and regional needs.  The charts below show the results of this exercise.  The left-hand columns each represent one breakout group recommendations.

The FORWARD Advisory Group requested that we ask participants about ideas for funding this significant transportation program.  Participants emphasized that it would be important to leverage more local dollars to help fund transportation, but the property tax lid in state statute hinders the ability for local communities to raise revenues.  Stakeholders also noted it is important to expand revenue streams since motor fuel tax revenue remains stagnant.  

They encourage the state to explore road usage charges, congestion pricing, tolling (where appropriate), and higher fines for overweight vehicles. They also suggested reducing the number of lane miles the state is responsible for overseeing to help reduce annual maintenance costs.

It’s not over.  We still have four more local consult meetings across the state, but even when those wrap up, the conversations will continue.  KDOT will continue to have ongoing dialogue with stakeholders to ensure we’re addressing your feedback and to help us continue to get better.  Stay tuned for more.

And we look forward to seeing you in Wichita next week!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Passing the test: KDOT material labs test variety of products

By Kelly Kultala
Northeast Kansas Public Affairs Manager

District One is responsible for construction and maintenance activities for 17 counties in northeast Kansas.  These responsibilities include improving and maintaining more than 5,704 miles of state highways that are located within this district. But did you ever really think about all the different ways we work to improve and maintain our state highways? 

For example, KDOT has several different labs across the state that conduct experiments and research on the materials we use in the construction and maintenance activities.  In District One, we have the Materials Lab in Topeka and the Holton Area Materials Lab.

These two labs have four responsibilities.

1). The District One lab conducts the verification and testing of asphalt, making sure that the composition of the asphalt meets state and national standards.

The District One Materials Lab conducts the verification and testing of asphalt.

2). They are responsible for the independent assurance witnessing of anyone who is testing the asphalts, aggregates and concrete. This helps make sure that anyone out in the field conducting tests is conducting them according to state and national procedures.

3). The lab also performs core drilling on projects to determine the condition of the roads. This checks the thickness of the concrete establishes corrective factors if needed.

 4). The Holton Area Materials Lab monitors the quarry rock samples, conducting tests on all the rock from quarries that want to be able sell their rock for KDOT approved projects. The rock is tested every year and sand is tested every five years.

This testing is critical to the success of our projects.  As Tammy Wilson, District One Materials Supervisor, said “KDOT has strict standards about what’s acceptable to go into our roads and bridges.  As it should be.”