Highway planners are starting design and engineering work on $1.6 billion worth of road projects as the state launches a new multiyear transportation program approved by the Legislature this year.
The Kansas Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it is putting 40 projects into a pipeline so the agency can start doing the preliminary work needed to get them shovel ready.
The announcement does not commit construction funds to the projects but does give them a priority as money becomes available. The agency will decide separately what projects will go to construction.
This is the first time in four or five years the state will have road projects on the shelf that are ready to build.
Development on new projects stopped in 2015 and 2016 because the state didn’t have the money to build them, state transportation officials said.
“The truth of the matter is we have an empty pipeline. That is not a good place for our state to be,” said Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz. “We have to get some work under way to develop these projects.”
Lorenz stressed it was important to have projects ready to build in anticipation that the federal government might offer stimulus money for road work as the country digs out of the economic damage brought out by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We don’t know if there will be a federal stimulus program for infrastructure, and if there is what the requirements might be,” Lorenz said.
“We must be flexible and responsive to strike a good balance,” she said. “Now isn’t the time to be limited on your choices. There are competing challenges at play, and we must be prepared to meet all of them.”
The construction pipeline is dynamic and is subject to change every two years as transportation priorities evolve across Kansas.
Some projects may move faster than others, while some new work could be moved into the pipeline and expedited because of changing priorities.
The projects moving into the construction pipeline will not affect the schedule for finishing $420 million worth of road work that was not finished in the last transportation program.
Lorenz said Thursday that at least one phase of the 18 remaining projects from the last program will be let for construction no later than Dec. 31, 2021 – six months earlier than previously promised.
Here is a look at some of the biggest projects that will be moved into the pipeline:
- U.S. 69 widening in Johnson County from 151st to 103rd Street, $300 million. KDOT says it is the highest rated expansion project in the state and will alleviate congestion at one of the state’s worst bottlenecks.
- Interstate 70 widening in Shawnee County from MacVicar to Polk Street, $234 million. KDOT says the six-lane expansion would improve a sharp curve and safety overall.
- Kansas 96 in Sedgwick County from Hillside Road to Greenwich Road, $225 million. This project would address a highly congested area traveled by 62,000 vehicles daily.
- South Lawrence Trafficway extension in Douglas County from U.S. 40 south and east to U.S. 59, $130 million. Intended to promote safety and economic development. The project is expected to improve safety for travelers entering and leaving the nearby Youth Sports Complex, which experienced 20 accidents at the 27th Street/Wakarusa Drive intersection over a 20-month period in 2018-19.
- Centennial Bridge replacement, Leavenworth County, $107 million. The 65-year-old, two-lane bridge across the Missouri River is amassing extensive repair costs. The bridge is considered functionally obsolete.
- Widening of U.S. 50 in Gray and Finney counties, $110 million. This project will complete a four-lane expressway between Garden City and Dodge City.
- New South Lawrence Trafficway interchange at Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 (6th Street), $73 million.