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!

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