New proposed KDOT program to help communities with construction

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A new proposed Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) program, FORWARD, will help counties across the state with projects to improve their transportation needs.

That is, if the program is passed by the Legislature this session.

“KDOT wants to be a problem-solving partner with communities, with industry,” Deputy Secretary of Transportation Lindsey Douglas said. “We want to be able to respond to their needs sooner.”

Over the past several months, KDOT has held more than 16 meetings speaking with thousands of Kansans about the needs of their communities and how to fulfill those, Douglas said.

Each county in Kansas will receive at least $8 million worth of projects, which will be paid for by KDOT’s already existing revenue sources. These include motor fuel tax, sales tax, registration fees and federal funds, Douglas said. KDOT will not ask for additional funding for this program.

Paying for the program will also be supported by Gov. Laura Kelly’s closure of the “Bank of KDOT,” which took about $2 billion out of the highway fund. This prevented KDOT from being able to perform projects for communities. Kelly is reducing the amount of transfers out of the state highway fund so that the money can go towards FORWARD. Douglas said the priority of the program will go towards the programs that were not filled due to the $2 billion taken from the fund.

If the state budget stays consistent with Kelly’s plan in the Legislature, the Bank of KDOT will close in 2023.

One of the major changes currently happening in the transportation industry is the influence of technology, Douglas said. Transporting goods has changed, especially with online shopping bringing packages straight to consumer’s doorsteps.

FORWARD will reflect on these needs and decide projects that help the community’s businesses and mobility.

“Whether it’s moving grain out of the field or working through a morning commute, everybody is impacted by the transportation system,” Douglas said. “We want to be able to provide a system that works for everyone.”

The needs vary by location, but another popular demand is for more health-beneficial projects, such as walking trails, Douglas said.

FORWARD will replace KDOT’s only program, T-WORKS, if passed by the Legislature. KDOT will then travel across the state every two years looking for new needs, compared to the previous every 10 years.

KDOT has implemented other programs as well in an effort to increase the amount of projects being completed, including the Cost Share Program, Local Bridge Replacement Program, and Strategic Highway Safety program. The Cost Share Program provided $39 million in state funds to communities last year, with a local match rate of $34 million, Douglas said.

If the program is passed this session, KDOT will be traveling across the state to find new problems for projects in fall of 2021.

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