Davis: New transportation plan critical to economic recovery

Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, two major transportation projects recently broke ground in Hutchinson and Overland Park.  These projects will create 5400 new jobs are just two of several infrastructure improvements made possible by federal stimulus money.  This could not have happened at a more appropriate time, as we must soon evaluate the future of our state's transportation network.

Kansas' 10-year comprehensive transportation program will expire at the end of 2009. Unfortunately, like every other state, Kansas is feeling the wide-reaching effects of the current economic climate.  As we grapple with cuts to essential programs, transportation funding is taking a major hit.  Despite fiscal challenges, a new comprehensive program is both necessary and possible. 

Whether it is commuters driving to work in Johnson County or farmers shipping agricultural products from McPherson County, a strong transportation network is directly tied to a healthy economy.  It is estimated that for every $1 spent improving infrastructure, we receive a $3 return in the form of economic benefit.  Transportation projects can create thousands of jobs at a time of record high unemployment rates.  The last two 10-year programs were enacted during economic downturns and each resulted in over 100,000 new jobs for Kansas workers.  Additionally, interest rates are at historic lows and construction materials cost drastically less than they did a year ago.  Investing in this now will not only get Kansans back to work, it will save millions of taxpayer dollars in the long run. 

The state's limited resources will only provide for a new program with careful planning.  That is why KDOT constructed a framework for the future of our infrastructure using proven business models.  This common-sense strategy is the only way to move forward within our financial limitations.  The approach of the last comprehensive plan served us well, but the future requires a more strategic approach.

Kansas maintains more than 130,000 miles of local roads, 10,000 miles of highways, and 20,500 bridges.  Looking ahead, the need for efficient mobilization will only increase.  We have much to do if we are going to meet the future demands of our population and solve long-term energy challenges.  Although the next legislative session will present a variety of obstacles, a new transportation plan can help get our state on the road to economic recovery.  

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