EL Update: Task Force Dates Set

Greetings from Topeka.

Like others, we’re anxiously watching the election results as votes in the GOP primary race for Governor continue to be counted, possibly recounted & eventually verified. Meanwhile, Democrat nominee Laura Kelly and Independent candidate Greg Orman have started campaigning against both Gov Colyer & Kris Kobach amidst the uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the newly created transportation task force has begun its work. They held the first meeting in Topeka on Monday, August 6.

The meeting was an opportunity for the task force members to organize their fall schedule of stops, set overall goals, explore topics most interesting to the membership and learn about the history of transportation programs past.

Committee members from the public and private sector heard from the agency about the current system condition and the 21 projects currently on hold. The committee learned that throughout the course of T-WORKS the agency has $2 billion less than what was anticipated in revenues and will either need to issue additional bonds or have more revenue by FY 2020 or the agency may have to look at turning back federal funds.

We hope you can attend the various meetings of the task force. Here is the schedule:

  • Salina – September 6th
  • Wyandotte County – September 12th
  • Pittsburg – September 20th
  • Newton – October 4th
  • Garden City – October 11th
  • Wichita – October 18th
  • Hays – October 24th
  • Johnson County – November 8th
  • Manhattan – November 9th
  • Topeka – November 28-29

As you make plans to attend these important discissions be sure to consider attending any and all in your KDOT district, if you are not familiar with your KDOT district feel free to look that up here.

If you are hoping to testify on behalf of your community, organization, or company it will be important for you to be aware of the conferee guidelines, which you can find by clicking here.

And lastly, this will likely be my final “official” communication to you as Economic Lifelines executive director. Later this month I’ll begin a new career chapter serving the membership of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives in government relations. It’s been an honor to work for you & the great membership of Economic Lifelines. The executive committee of Economic Lifelines has tapped Ed DeSoigne to serve as the interim director. Ed’s lifelong career advancing transportation issues in the region make him ideally suited to step into this role as we keep building momentum for new investments in Kansas.

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Editorial: Kansas is neglecting its highways. Raiding the transportation budget must change: Wichita Eagle, Feb 13, 2018

Whatever our neighbors in Oklahoma and Missouri once bragged about, Kansans could always think, “Yes, but our roads are so much better.”

That’s no longer the case. Many areas of Kansas have state highways in need of repair or modernization. Anyone who travels the state has a two-lane highway they would rather avoid because it’s too narrow, bumpy or is without a safe place to pull over.

The Kansas Department of Transportation needs $380 million annually to maintain the state’s roads, but hasn’t received that much in years because the Legislature continually raids KDOT’s budget to fund other government needs labeled more pressing. Former Gov. Sam Brownback’s failed tax-cut policies helped fuel the revenue problem. READ MORE

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Kansas has spent $3 billion meant for roads on other things. Stopping will be hard: Wichita Eagle, Feb 12, 2018

More than $3.3 billion of your tax dollars meant for highways have been spent elsewhere over the past 20 years.

It has gone to shore up other areas of state spending. In turn, the state is delaying nearly two dozen projects to repair or expand highways at the moment.

Calls to stop using highway funding for other purposes are mounting, and now, Kansas’s new governor has joined in.

“We must end the highway funding sweeps and build an effective plan that promotes economic development and strengthens our transportation network,” Gov. Jeff Colyer said in his first major speech to lawmakers last week. READ MORE

Posted in In the News | Comments Off on Kansas has spent $3 billion meant for roads on other things. Stopping will be hard: Wichita Eagle, Feb 12, 2018

Top 10 Reasons to support SB 285

Below are the Top 10 Reasons to support SB 285 to #BuildAVision for Kansas Transportation by establishing a special task force to set transportation priorities for the State of Kansas.

  1. 23 projects outstanding: We must develop a plan to get the 23 projects that remain incomplete through the T-WORKS program back into the project pipeline.  Currently there is no plan to get those back to construction. Link to announcement and list. 
  2. New needs: We have a lot of emerging needs that need to be evaluated alongside the 23 outstanding projects to best plan for future infrastructure investments.
  3. Safety: We have serious safety concerns along Kansas roadways.  We know communities in our state today that fear sending kids on the bus and waving good-bye to their loved ones because of the safety issues on their commutes.
  4. Economic Growth: If we want our state to grow we must have the ability to invest in capacity needs – transportation is all about future planning and Kansas communities are planning for growth, the state needs to prepare accordingly.
  5. New Data: In 2018 we now have new and more innovative data that will help us to prioritize infrastructure needs and interconnectivity in new ways from a multi-modal perspective.
  6. Broad stakeholder support: The task force itself represents a wide-variety of stakeholders who have expressed their commitment and support of assisting the legislative task force and lending their industry expertise to the important conversation
  7. The time is now: With changes to the federal infrastructure plan, with similar discussions happening in our neighboring states, the time is now for Kansas to have a plan for the coming years of infrastructure needs.
  8. Return on Investment: Infrastructure investments have positive return, they turn around in state and local economies at significant rates.  Studies indicate that for every $1 invested in this area there is $3 of economic activity generated.
    *Source: 2015 Business Roundtable Study
  9. Opportunity to re-evaluate State General Fund and State Highway Fund relationship:  This is a great opportunity to begin the discussion about how the SGF and SHF currently co-exist and what we want that to be like in the future.
  10. Build a Vision:  This is an opportunity for legislators to work directly with industry and users to establish a vision for how we want our state’s infrastructure to operate in the future.  Kansas is known for innovative solutions to solve our biggest problems and with some time and work we have the chance to build a vision that will last here in Kansas.
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Kansas transportation officials push for task force on state’s road needs: Topeka Capital-Journal, Jan 25, 2018

Communities, builders and economic development organizations are pushing legislators to take a comprehensive look at the Kansas transportation needs after the state spent years sweeping highway funds to support a faltering state budget.

Members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee have taken on a bill that would create a 27-member task force charged with looking at Kansas’ progress on its eight-year-old transportation plan and making recommendations to the Legislature. Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican, said the committee would continue discussing the bill after its initial hearing Wednesday. READ MORE

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EL NEWS: Kansas Transportation Issues to be Evaluated Under New Legislative Proposal

Topeka, Kan. —Transportation issues in Kansas would be evaluated with an eye toward developing a new plan to address them under a proposal introduced today in the Kansas Legislature. The establishment of a newly formed transportation task force would set in motion a statewide initiative to identify current and future transportation needs throughout Kansas.


Embodied in a bill introduced by Sen. John Skubal (R-Overland Park) in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the task force would be comprised of legislators, transportation stakeholders from the private sector, and other Kansans representing interests ranging from local units of government to public transit agencies. It was patterned after a similar task force appointed to develop the 2010 T-WORKS program.

“I’m excited to have our state engage in a productive dialogue on transportation,” stated Sen Skubal. “Far too often in public policy, we react to situations rather than plan for them. I am hopeful we can get a handle on how our current program should be adjusted and what the best return on investment will be moving forward.”

Organizations interested in advancing transportation and economic development issues in Kansas voiced support for the task force, noting that ongoing transfers from the highway fund to other areas of state government have left much of the 2010 program unfinished.

“We are encouraged by the growing number of elected officials – and other Kansans – who are expressing support for a renewed emphasis on transportation,” said Tara Mays, executive director of Economic Lifelines, a statewide coalition of transportation supporters. “It’s time to build a vision for our state’s transportation system, enabling communities throughout the state to grow and prosper.”

The proposal would set a target of January 2019 for the task force to complete its work.

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State groups, lawmakers gather to talk transportation needs, policy: Garden City Telegram, Sept. 28, 2017

As legislators gear up to replace the Transportation Works for Kansas (T-WORKS) program inaugurated in 2010 and slated for termination in 2020, statewide transportation groups and southwest Kansas lawmakers and officials gathered in Garden City Wednesday to discuss regional transportation needs and and how to tackle them in the future. READ MORE

Posted in In the News | Comments Off on State groups, lawmakers gather to talk transportation needs, policy: Garden City Telegram, Sept. 28, 2017

EL UPDATE – Summer 2017

We wanted to share with you some of the coverage surrounding the 2018 gubernatorial race and those individuals that have expressed interest so far in being the next Governor of the great state of Kansas at this point. We encourage you to take a minute to listen to this story entitled “One Year Before Primary, Kansas Governor’s Race Attracts A Crowd of Candidates,” by Stephen Koranda on KCUR.

Meanwhile, agency work at KDOT continues with the announced $2.6M in approved bids in July. Read the KDOT announcement here and also be sure to see the request for comment on the statewide transportation improvement program for FFY 2018-2021.

Additionally, be sure to check out the recent piece from All Things Considered entitled “Infrastructure Investment Trends 10 Years After Bridge Collapse,” by David Schaper.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the new quarterly EL Insider Newsletter. We hope that this newsletter offers a great way for you to stay abreast of what’s happening during the “off season” when the legislature heads home from Topeka. Because transportation is important, there is always information to share and we are excited for this new format.

Have a great week and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns or ideas! I can be reached at tara@economiclifelines.com or by phone at (785) 969-9270.





Tara Mays
(785) 969-9270 or tara@economiclifelines.com

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The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has begun the process of letting additional critical preservation projects based on the $400 million in additional bonding authority Economic Lifelines worked to have authorized by the 2017 Kansas Legislature.

Economic Lifelines sought to have the additional bonding provide a “bridge” in funding over a two-year period, while the Kansas Legislature worked to stabilize funding of the General Budget, in order to eventually end the need for state highway funds to balance the budget.

In January, KDOT planned to let only $43 million in preservation projects during FY18, but will now spend approximately $320 million in both FY18 and FY19.

  • The breakdown in preservation spending, for FY18, is as follows:
    $115 million will be spent on “1R” projects. Examples of these types of projects are overlays, seals, patching and surfacing work. 1R projects help to ensure the full useful life of roadways and protect the investments already made to our system.
  • $143 million will be spent on heavy preservation projects. Examples of these types of projects are bridge replacements or sections where full reconstruction may be necessary. Two of the main projects that will be programmed during FY18 with these additional preservation funds are: 1) I-70 in Wyandotte County at the Lewis & Clark Viaduct over the Kansas River in Kansas City, Kan., which will be let in November 2017. 2) I-70 in Gove County from 1 mile west of K-23 to 4 miles east of K-211, which will be let in April 2018. Other heavy preservation projects can be expected in Edwards, Allen, Sheridan, Hamilton, and Butler counties during FY18.

The rest of the funds will be programmed to yet-to-be determined 1R projects and made public on the KDOT monthly letting list which can be found here.

It is important to note that funds for these projects are based on borrowing, so the funds dedicated for these projects CANNOT be swept into the State General Fund.

For additional project information you can always see further details regarding transportation investments on the T-WORKS website.

We want to again thank Economic Lifelines members for your support in protecting the infrastructure investments in Kansas. If you have any questions or if there is ever any additional information that I can provide please feel free to contact me at any time. I can be reached at tara@economiclifelines.com or by phone at (785) 969-9270.


Tara Mays
Executive Director
(785) 969-9270 or tara@economiclifelines.com

Posted in Legislative Update | Comments Off on T-WORKS PROGRESS: JUNE 28


The legislative session wrapped over the weekend after completing their 113th day of work, making it the second longest session in history. (The record was set in 2015 with a 114-day session!)

But they didn’t adjourn without tackling some major public policy issues, including passing a comprehensive tax reform measure upon overriding the governor’s veto. This reform puts the state back onto more stable financial ground. So much so that just hours after passing the reform package Moody’s returned the State of Kansas to a stable outlook from negative watch. (Read about Moody’s upgrade.)

This measure is a great step forward. This gives Kansas an opportunity to begin the long walk away from a reliance on the State Highway Fund money to fill budget shortfalls. We want to thank those that supported meaningful tax reform, although we understand that there is still more hard work to do in the years to come.

The legislature also proceeded with a bi-partisan effort aimed at allowing KDOT the ability to ensure proper maintenance and preservation on Kansas roadways. At the urging of Economic Lifelines and other transportation advocacy organizations, both the house and senate passed language allowing KDOT to bond up to an additional $400m to address critical maintenance needs. While debt isn’t an ideal solution, it’s a decision that ensures KDOT roads can stay in good condition as we move through the next two fiscal years. This choice, while not an easy one, is necessary to ensure the agency can let projects that will meet the minimum preservation needs of the state.

Economic Lifelines would like to thank the legislators who helped lead the efforts of ensuring that our states preservation needs can be met: Rep. JR Claeys (R-Salina), Rep. Henry Helgerson (D-Wichita), Rep. Troy Waymaster (R-Russell), Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore (D- Kansas City), Sen. John Skubal (R-Overland Park), Sen. Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka), Sen. Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick), and Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka).

As any bill does, the budget measure next goes before the Governor for review before becoming law. He has the ability, through the line-item veto, to strike spending items contained in the measure.

Legislators will return for sine die, the official end to the legislative session, on June 26th.

Overall, this legislative session was a great success for transportation in Kansas. While, advocates of transportation didn’t get everything that was proposed, there was considerable movement in the right direction, with a more stable revenue picture for Kansas and additional resources for transportation We want to thank Economic Lifelines members: You played a crucial part in building momentum and enthusiasm on important infrastructure issues in Kansas. We couldn’t do it without you!

I can be reached at tara@economiclifelines.com or by phone at (785) 969-9270 if you have questions or would like more information.


Tara Mays
Executive Director
(785) 969-9270 or tara@economiclifelines.com

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