Will the federal infrastructure bill mean money for Harvey County?

Chad Frey
The Kansan
There will be federal fund coming to Harvey County for road and bridge projects after the passage of a infrastructure bill by congress. It is unclear how much will be available to the county.

Robert Kerr of Sedgwick approached the Harvey County Commission this week with a question, and a hope to get a closed bridge repaired near Sedgwick.

"With this national infrastructure bill being signed in, I was just curious if Harvey County was going to get a piece of the pie," Kerr said. "As far as bridge replacement, out in the county."

It's a pretty straightforward question, but one that is not easy to answer at this time. The bill in question will bring $3.8 billion to Kansas, according to Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kans).

How much of those funds will end up in Harvey County is anybody's guess.

"When we learn more, we will share it will communities and townships to see how we can distributed funds," said Chip Westfall, chair of the Harvey County Commission and executive board member of the Kansas Association of Counties. "... It may take a little bit. The bill is 2,700 pages long. It will take a while for a committee to go through that."

The state will receive about $2.6 million over five years for roads and bridges.

"Two miles northwest of Sedgwick there is a bridge that has fallen into Emma Creek," Kerr said. "I know it is kind of out in the boonies, but it is a bottleneck no having the bridge. It is probably used more than people realize."

"There are groups like [Kansas Department of Transportation] that are going through it and creating summaries," added Anthony Swartzendruber, county adminstrator. "Once that happens I would anticipate there will be webinars. ... It is positive news. More money is coming that we can invest in road and bridge infrastructure but we need to see what all the rules are."

The bridge was closed last year.

Also coming will be $40 million for electric vehicle charging stations, $100 million for improved broadband/high-speed internet access, $450 million for water infrastructure and $272 million for public transit.

The public transit funds could result in extension of the Heartland Flyer Amtrak route — meaning a stop in Newton for a train that will connect Kansas to Oklahoma and Texas. That train will also connect with the Southwest Chief which already stops in Newton — a route that travels from Los Angeles to Chicago daily.

"Some of this money is earmarked to go to cities and counties," Westfall said. "Counties, cities and jurisdictions can apply direct to federal highway adminstration for special projects."