Friday, November 1, 2019

Second round of Local Consult Meetings off to a great start

Attendees at the Local Consult Meeting in Pittsburg participated in breakout sessions. They discussed new policies, project selection approaches and programs under FORWARD. 

When our transportation system is healthy, our state is healthy.
That was a key takeaway message from the second round of Local Consult meetings KDOT held in Pittsburg and Junction City 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 underway now, 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 new policies, selection approaches and programs under FORWARD – and also making sure that we better understand regional priorities for expansion and modernization projects.

We had great discussions this week and heard from more than 200 Kansans – 151 in Pittsburg and 66 in Junction City – who are helping us think about how we can structure the next program to be flexible and nimble, and how our agency can be a better partner in solving local and regional problems.

Themes heard across the meetings include:

·         Kansans support a rolling program. A rolling program approach  makes sense to Kansans who want communities to have some certainty related to how transportation programs will be structured for 10 years  – yet recognize communities’ needs change and flexibility is important with transformation technology, economic changes and more fluid demographics.. We heard many comments from participants who like the idea of interacting with KDOT on a more reliable, regular basis to talk through new opportunities to make the most strategic investments in our transportation system.

·         Safety continues to be a top priority for all. Participants said they were interested in knowing more about how KDOT would add additional focus to FORWARD on making smart and strategic safety improvements, particularly when it comes to adding shoulders and passing lanes to new and existing roads.

·         Local programs – including our new Cost Share program, our recently reinstated Local Bridge program, and our City Connecting Link Improvement Program (CCLIP) – continue to be enormously popular, and participants at these meetings said funding should be kept at the same level or even increased.

·         Flexibility increases our problem-solving ability.  KDOT offers many highway and modal programs – and participants recommended looking for ways to combine those program resources to tackle more transportation needs and be part of the solution for complicated community challenges.  Rather than trying to fit a transportation need in a specific program category, Kansans would prefer KDOT to tailor its resources to serve their needs.

·         New approaches can help meet needs.  From using alternative delivery methods and practical improvements to allow KDOT to address more needs faster to adding pavement improvements as an eligible item for the local bridge program, many business process improvements were suggested.

It’s time to get work in the 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 consider a high or medium priority.  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 at the Local Consult meetings about ideas for funding this significant transportation program. We heard several innovative ideas, but two significant themes: first, Kansans want transportation funding to be used only for transportation needs. Second, there is a growing concern that the increased adoption of electric vehicles will affect motor fuel tax revenues and the state should begin studying potential alternative funding methods like a road usage charge. We will continue to gather input from Kansans to share with the advisory group and others who are interested in this program.

While we are off to a great start, this is only the beginning. These local consult meetings are the start of the conversation, not the end.   FORWARD will allow for ongoing conversations – not only to help us select projects every two years but also to help us improve our business models along the way.  We have more to learn about how we can better deliver transportation for Kansans – and we’re committed to improving every year.

We look forward to seeing you in Topeka and Kansas City next week!

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