US-24 highway project stands to gain $41 million
CAPTION: BREAKOUTBOX:AREA PROJECTS The state has a list of 230 projects it could let out for bidding when it receives money from the federal stimulus packages being debated in Washington. Following are area projects on the list, by county. Shawnee: US-24 highway, $41 million Riley: K-18 highway, $140 million Lyon: US-50 highway, $50 million; K-99 Eagle Creek bridge, $2 million Deb Miller is subject of two or three line chatter One road project in Shawnee County would benefit from an injection of up to $401 million from the federal stimulus packages into the state's highway system, according to a preliminary list of shovel-ready jobs compiled by the Kansas Department of Transportation. Two projects in Lyon County and one in Riley County are the other major area construction works included among the 230 statewide projects that could be let for bidding upon passage of a stimulus bill in Washington. KDOT expects to receive anywhere from $317 million under the House plan up to $401 million as laid out in the Senate version. A preliminary analysis by the agency estimated the influx of federal dollars could create between 5,000 and 6,400 jobs in the state, only one of the benefits of such an infusion, said KDOT Secretary Deb Miller. "We know from our experience with the state's current comprehensive transportation program and the earlier comprehensive highway program that transportation projects put people to work, spread dollars throughout the economy, and make infrastructure improvements that enhance safety and support the state's economic goals," she said. The KDOT list includes $1.5 billion worth of projects, just a fraction of Kansas' expected windfall. "We have a lot more needs than $400 million, but this is a big boost to us," said KDOT spokesman Steve Swartz. He said the agency will give priority consideration to projects that were part of the state's current 10-year highway plan but were delayed in December because of slumping state revenues and a drying up of a federal highway fund. Among the projects that could be let for bidding with the federal dollars is $41 million of work on US-24 highway north of Topeka. Swartz said Shawnee County isn't found on the list more often because there was a lot of work done on the county's roads in the past 10 years and the construction needed in the area wouldn't be ready to be let out for bidding in enough time. The bills being considered in Washington stipulate that states spend the highway funds in prescribed amounts of time — some in as little as 75 days, others in up to a year. Also awaiting action in Washington is a $140 million project on K-18 highway outside Manhattan, work necessitated by the expansion of Fort Riley, Swartz said. Improvements to sections of US-50 highway and replacement of the K-99 highway bridge over Eagle Creek, both in Lyon County, also could be recipients of federal dollars. Johnson County has at least $122 million worth of projects on the list of potential recipients. Officials in McPherson and Reno counties also are watching to see if the $146 million worth of work on K-61 highway will be funded. Even if the state receives the $401 million included in the Senate stimulus plan, that is only about a third of the needed money to complete the entire list of projects. Swartz said the new 10-year highway plan is still "very much up in the air," and funding sources for the remaining projects are unknown at the time. Like many states, Kansas' road infrastructure needs are ballooning at a time when state budgets are shrinking. In December, after the a federal highway fund deflated and state revenue estimates plunged, the state delayed $210 million worth of road construction. Congress approved $8 billion to shore up that federal fund, but transportation funding shortfalls for states like Kansas will remain in fiscal year 2010. Other actions that KDOT officials are anticipating will compound the problem. For one, they believe the state won't make an expected $62 million in loan repayments to the state highway fund over the next two years. Legislators loaned the state money from the fund during the economic downturn in the early 2000s. James Carlson can be reached at (785) 295-1186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.