Governor announces transportation funds

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Gov. Laura Kelly announced the distribution of transportation funds from the CARES Act on Thursday at the Meridian Center in Newton.

The governor of Kansas wanted to make something very clear when announcing the distribution of transportation funds by the Kansas Department of Transportation from a federal COVID-19 relief package. 

No one will be left out. 

"Ultimately we selected our approach because it allowed us to accomplish these three goals: One, to invest the maximum amount of dollars into our economy in the least amonunt of time. Two, to invest those dollars in every county, leaving no part of the state behind. And three, to target economic development opportunities in the communities that have been hardest hit during the pandemic," Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday during a news conference at the Meridian Center of Newton. 

The state is receiving $84.6 million for transportation from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act passed by congress at the end of December. The CRRSAA, as approved by Congress and signed into law on Dec. 27, included $10 billion for state highway and transportation systems. Kansas received $94 million in total. $9.1 million of those funds will collectively go directly to the Kansas City and Wichita metro areas, as federally designated. KDOT will distribute the remaining funds. 

Of those funds, $37.5 million will be used to "restore motor tax revenues." That number, Kelly said, mirrors how much revenues have declined since April of 2020. 

"About a third of this revenue is distributed to local governments, meaning they have exprienced signficant revenue shortfalls," Kelly said. "We must restore local government funding. They must maintain their services at this time when Kansans need them most."

The state will distribute about $12.5 million of the motor vehicle tax restoration directly to cities. 

All Kansas countes and about 600 cities across the state recieve funds through the special highway fund. KDOT will target between $25 and $40 million for highway preservation work. Projects for highway preservation work will be let to bid by December. KDOT will also distribute between $10 and $15 million of local partnership programs. 

"The reason we are giving those reasons is we want to see the quality of applications come in for those partnership projects," said Julie Lorenz, deputy secretary of transporation. "We are excited to see what communities need and how we can fund it."

The announcement Thursday was made in Newton, against the backdrop of an anticipated $2 million cost-share program approved last year to  extend a street that will open up an commercial development the community has been working to launch for several years. Groundbreaking is scheduled for next week. 

KDOT is actively trying to expand that program, and plans to do so using federal stimulus funds to do it.  

In the past six months, she said, the state has increased the number of potential stimulus projects from 34 to 133 — from 13 projects that can be sent to bid to more than 50. 

In  a 25-page spreadsheet containing distribution for cities and counties from the CRRSAA funds, there is another $41,000 for Newton available — with $77,000 available to Harvey County as well.  

In neighboring McPherson County, there will be $8,590 in CARES funds available with cities receiving $29,000 for McPherson, $7,300 for Lindsborg and $4,400 for Moundridge among others. In Butler County, $156,000 with $28,000 for El Dorado, $29,000 for Andover and $20,770 for Augusta, among others. 

"We are prepared to do more," Lorenz said. "We can deliver more game-changing projects for Kansas if Congress will pass a federal stimulus bill this year." 

"We are continuing to look for ways to accelerate necessary construction work because it makes necessary repairs to our infrastructure and it creates good-paying jobs for Kansans," Kelly said. 

Newton Mayor Richard Stinnett, left, welcomes Gov. Laura Kelly to Newton on Thursday for the announcement of CARES Act transportation funds.