ROADS/BRIDGES: Budget cuts put Kansas DOT in trouble

May 12, 2016

Transporation funds used to balance the state budget are delaying expansion and modernization plans

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) recently found itself at the center of debates over the state budget. Since 2010, KDOT officials say the department has transferred $1.8 billion to the state general fund. Most have been to help balance the Kansas budget. The money transfers have led to delays of expansion and modernization projects, including six announced on April 20.

Steve Swartz, a KDOT spokesman, said there are 25 expansion and modernization projects underway in Kansas. The delayed projects include the construction of additional lanes on U.S. 54 in Seward County. According to Swartz, these projects are likely to be pushed back 18 to 24 months.

Out of Kansas’ 25,047 bridges, 2,303 are classified as “structurally deficient,” according to the Federal Highway Administration. This gives Kansas the sixth-highest number of deficient bridges in the country.

Bob Totten, executive vice president of the Kansas Contractors Association, voiced concerns that the money being taken out of KDOT will cause contractor jobs to leave the state, negatively affecting local economies and the lives of the contractors themselves.

David M. Howard, CEO of Koss Construction, has also said the KDOT transfers have put pressure on construction companies hoping to keep their business in Kansas. For Howard, whose company is based in Wichita and is one of the largest asphalt providers in the nation, working in Kansas is a priority.

Swartz said KDOT is continuing to devote resources to projects in Kansas, including $900 million towards current constructions projects and $400 million for preservation work further down the road.