highways

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

A study by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) says 96.7 percent of interstate highways and 91.7 percent of non-interstate highways in the state were ranked as "good" in the fiscal year ending in July.

To figure out the rating, the department evaluates the state's 10,000-mile highway system annually and gives marks based on scores of surface roughness and distress. KDOT says it aims for 85 percent of interstate highways and 80 percent of non-interstate highways to be rated as good. This year's rankings were higher than that.

John Russell, flickr Creative Commons

Recently released data shows U.S. driving is up 3.3 percent for the first six months of 2016, the number is even higher in Kansas.

Travel on the state highway system in Kansas is up 3.6 percent over where it was in 2015.

Ann Williamson with the Kansas Department of Transportation says it’s a good sign for travelers.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

Every election season, there are stories about issues. This is one of those stories. The issue: roads.

A state Senate race in Pittsburg, Kansas, is one where the issue of roads--and whether or not they get built--could be pivotal.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

A Kansas senator says a highway project in his district is back on schedule, drawing protests from Democrats who say Republican Gov. Sam Brownback picked that project over others to help a political ally in an election year.

The project to widen U.S. Highway 69 north of Pittsburg from two lanes to four was one of 25 delayed in April to help balance the state budget.

It sits in the district of Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner, who sent an open letter to Brownback decrying the delay.

Doug Kerr, flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Sam Brownback’s three options for balancing the state budget include taking about $185 million from the highway fund.

As a result, the Kansas Department of Transportation is holding off on 25 major projects, including two in Reno and Harvey counties.

Fourteen projects will be delayed in fiscal year 2017 at an estimated construction cost of $271 million; 9 projects are on hold in the fiscal year 2018 at an estimated construction cost of $247 million; and two projects are on hold in fiscal year 2019 at an estimated construction cost of $35 million.

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

The new Kansas revenue forecast, set to be released next week, could ultimately affect Kansas highways and bridges as well as the crews who build and maintain them.

It’s widely expected the state’s revenue projection will be lowered. Bob Totten, with the Kansas Contractors Association, says there's a chance additional money could be taken from the highway fund to help fill the budget gap.

“We might see $50 million taken away after the revenue estimates are released April 20th. It could go a little higher than that,” Totten says.

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

A Kansas House committee is considering bills that would bolster funding for the Highway Patrol with the goal of hiring more state troopers.

The proposals would either divert current registration fees to the Kansas Highway Patrol or add a new $2 fee to help hire 75 troopers over three years. Patrol Superintendent Colonel Mark Bruce says the current shortage means they can’t respond to every call, so local police departments have to pick up the slack.

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

A lobbying campaign being waged by highway contractors has Kansas lawmakers on the defensive.

Billboards put up by the contractors accuse Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers of committing “highway robbery” by diverting more than a billion dollars from the transportation department to plug holes in the state budget.

Sen. Jeff Melcher fired back at a Statehouse hearing today Wednesday. The Leawood Republican called the charges a “gross misrepresentation of reality.”

Stephen Koranda

Kansas lawmakers have shifted hundreds of millions of dollars out of the State Highway Fund to help balance the budget in recent years. While this will likely cause some road maintenance projects to be delayed, other upgrades are still moving forward.

One of those projects affects homeowners in northeast Kansas who are convinced the transportation department is now cutting corners because of the state's tight budget. Stephen Koranda traveled to Alta Vista to learn more.

Stephen Koranda

Lawmakers in Congress face a deadline next month to pass legislation funding the nation's highway system.

The current law will expire at the end of May.

Stephen Koranda reports, Republican Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins says one solution is off the table.

Jenkins says Republican leaders in the U.S. House probably won’t consider a hike in the gas tax.

Some other proposals would change tax rules for overseas corporate profits and earmark that money as a highway funding stream. But Jenkins isn’t entire on board with that idea.

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