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August 9, 2019 2:15 PM, EDT

Kansas DOT Reinstates Local Bridge Replacement Program

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The Kansas Department of Transportation is reinstating a program meant to help replace and rehabilitate structurally deficient bridges in cities and counties.

Through the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program, state funds are awarded to local public authorities. The goal is to reduce the number of deficient bridges in a cost-effective way. The program had previously been dropped because of severe budget cuts over the past few years.

Gov. Laura Kelly, who was elected in November 2018, has authorized $216 million in sales tax revenue to remain in the state highway fund in the state’s fiscal year 2020. This funding helped restore the bridge replacement program.

KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz joined representatives of the Kansas Association of Counties, the Kansas County Highway Association and the Kansas Contractors Association to announce the reinstatement of the program Aug. 7 at an event in Butler County. Located in southern Kansas, Butler County lies immediately east of Wichita.

“This was a popular program when it was offered in 2014 and I’m very happy that we’re able to bring it back,” Lorenz said. “Reinstating the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program was one of the top recommendations coming out of last year’s Joint Legislative Vision Task Force and is a great way for us to work together with cities and counties to address needed improvements.”

The program provides up to $150,000 to cities and counties to assist with the replacement or rehabilitation of a bridge on the local road system. The program addresses smaller structures on low-volume roads. Specifically, funding targets bridges with span lengths of 50 feet or less (which account for more than half of all the deficient bridges in the state).

Laura Kelly

Kelly

In order to qualify, bridges must be classified as deficient, maintain a daily traffic count of less than 100 vehicles and stretch 20 to 50 feet in length. Local government agencies that are granted funds must provide a 10% match.

“Kansas’ local road system is critical for getting people and goods where they need to go,” Kelly said in a press release. “I’m pleased to see state and local government working together and combining resources to replace aging infrastructure, creating healthier communities and economies.”

In addition to helping reinstate the program, the state highway fund will support increased road preservation, assist with completing delayed Transportation Works for Kansas (T-WORKS) projects and offer new funding opportunities for cities and counties.

Some 19,000 bridges populate Kansas’ local road system. According to KDOT, about 3,800 of those bridges, or 20%, are in poor condition and are insufficient for today’s weight requirements.

“The counties are excited and appreciative of this new bridge replacement program,” said Saline County Engineer Justin Mader, who also serves as president of the Kansas County Highway Association. “It will be good for agriculture, good for safety, will put construction workers to work and boost the Kansas economy while building and rehabilitating bridges that will benefit Kansas for decades into the future.”

KDOT will accept applications for the program through mid-September. The agency will select projects in early October.