State puts $4.5 million back into local roads

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The state highway department is putting $4.5 million back into local road projects that had been trimmed because of unpredictable funding.

Gov. Jeff Colyer on Monday announced that the state was increasing its contribution to a state program that allows many local governments to swap out federal dollars for state dollars so they can avert burdensome federal regulations.

Up until fiscal year 2017, local governments could get 90 cents from the state for every $1 they receive in federal transportation funds. The state cut that to 75 cents and is now restoring it to pre-2017 levels.

Local governments benefit from the voluntary program because when they use state dollars they aren’t subject to a series of stringent federal regulations that can delay projects and drive up costs.

“It is important to me that local governments have access to resources for local projects with less federal and bureaucratic red tape,” Colyer said in a statement.

The exchange program, estimated at $30 million annually, is only available to cities with a population of more than 5,000 outside of Johnson, Wyandotte and Sedgwick counties. Every county in the state except Johnson, Wyandotte and  Sedgwick counties is eligible for the program.

Increasing the state’s contribution “will allow counties to further stretch our transportation dollars,” said Phillips County Commissioner Max Dibble, president of the Kansas Association of Counties.

“This means safer local roads and bridges for our citizens, farmers and businesses depending on them.”

Erik Sartorius, executive director of the League of Kansas Municipalities, praised the state’s decision.

“These funds are used to build important projects in cities, including reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads and bridges.”