Opinion Columns & Blogs

Bob Totten: State’s road and bridge work is underfunded

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association recently released its third-annual Bridge Report, which ranks Kansas as the sixth-worst state in the nation for its structurally deficient bridges (Feb. 25 Eagle). In the past two years, Kansas was ranked seventh in the ARTBA report. According to the latest report, out of the state’s 25,047 bridges, 9.2 percent, or 2,303 bridges, are considered deficient and need to be rebuilt.

The fact that Kansas’ bridges are deteriorating, not improving, and that our state is rising on this list is an overall reflection of the severity of our transportation situation.

Over the past six years, more than $2.1 billion has been diverted from T-Works, that Kansas roads program that used to be one of the best in the country. T-Works was to devote $1.5 billion in transportation preservation over a 10-year period.

But instead of maintaining 1,200 miles of roads, this year the state will only be able to address 200 miles. And because of funds being taken from the T-Works program, the Kansas Department of Transportation will be able to fix only about 58 bridges compared with the normal amount of 115 each year.

As you can plainly see, the diversion of a million dollars a day from the transportation fund is having an effect on the road system in Kansas. If state leaders continue to siphon money from the roads program, our roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate and won’t be as safe as they were just four years ago. The ARTBA report is proof.

While having safe roads and bridges in our state is obviously our main concern, it isn’t the only focus. A better-funded road program would have seen T-Works create more than 175,000 jobs, which would give Kansas’ economy a much-needed boost. Instead, highway projects are moving to sister states such as Arkansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, along with our jobs.

State leaders need to realize a tax break will never fill a pothole, fix a bridge or employ a Kansan.

This situation will not go away by itself. Kansas citizens need to unite and let our state leaders know we’ve had enough of underfunded roads and bridges. It is imperative we work together to contact our legislators now, not only for the sake of safer roads and bridges today, but for a more prosperous and economically successful Kansas tomorrow.

Bob Totten is executive vice president of the Kansas Contractors Association in Topeka.