Plan puts Kansas' long-range transportation bill at $30 billion

Kansas is $30 billion short of meeting all its transportation needs over the next two decades, according to a preliminary long-range plan that’s expected to become final this week.

The plan, developed over 18 months with input from transportation leaders across the state, lays out a vision for state lawmakers when the current transportation program ends next year.

The plan doesn’t recommend specific projects — those will be left up the Legislature in a couple years — but it does outline broad areas where the state needs to invest in highways, local roads, transit, aviation and bike/pedestrian projects.

“My hope is that the (plan) will be the starting point for dialogue across Kansas about how to fund and invest in transportation in the coming years,” Kansas Transportation Secretary Deb Miller said in a letter unveiling the report.

The state is predicted to need about $2.9 billion a year for the next 20 years to address all its needs. The state is expected to run $1.5 billion short of meeting those needs.

The report doesn’t recommend how that deficit should be made up, leaving it instead to “high levels of consultation” and “informed policy discussions” among interested parties to reach a conclusion.

The report does recommend specific areas for funding, however. They include:

* $700 million a year on expanding highway capacity. Think projects like Kansas 7, Kansas 10 or the so-called Johnson County Triangle where K-10, I-35 and I-435 meet near the border of Overland Park, Lenexa and Olathe.

* About 62,000 vehicles a day use K-10 between Kansas 7 and I-435 in western Johnson County, for example. By 2030, that number is expected to reach 148,000. That section of highway can handle only about 80,000 vehicles a day.

* $300 million a year on highway and bridge preservation. Ninety-four percent of Kansas interstates are considered to be in good condition and so are 86 percent of other highways. About $200 million is expected to be necessary to keep the roads in good shape.

* $210 million to modernize state highways by widening them, adding shoulders and improving sight distances.

* $175 million for transit. This could mean extra money for passenger rail service from Kansas City to Oklahoma City and ultimately to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It also could mean cash for the popular bus service connecting Johnson County to Lawrence.

* $15 million for bicycle/pedestrian needs. This includes $5 million to build all the proposed trails in the state’s urban areas and nearly $10 million to meet needs in rural areas as well.

* $1 billion a year for local roads. Large and medium-sized urban areas are having trouble keeping up with aging infrastructure while building new roads to accommodate development. Some areas have only enough money to keep up with 65 percent to 75 percent of their road preservation needs.

The Kansas report is similar to one done in Missouri last year. That report found an $18 billion funding gap between needs and available money. Overall, Missouri has about $37 billion in needs over 20 years, including upgrades to I-70 and I-44.

The needs estimates contained in the Kansas report are based on all areas of transportation, not just those overseen by the Kansas Department of Transportation. The average annual investment figure of $2.9 billion is based on all the money needed should all the needs ever be addressed.

The report based the needs on technical analysis and discussions with dozens of transportation leaders across the state. The report acknowledges the needs exceed the funding that’s available today or may be available in the future.

“This list of needs, therefore, is a starting point for a discussion of transportation priorities,” the draft report says.