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!

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