Kansas to Overhaul 33 Local, Off-System Bridges

Laura Kelly
Kelly (middle, red jacket) at the announcement regarding Kansas' bridges. (Kansas Office of Governor)

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Kansas officials announced $40.5 million in funding to overhaul 33 local and off-system bridge projects across the state.

About 26% of the 19,300 bridges on local road systems in Kansas — around 5,000 in total — are in poor condition or unable to meet current weight and vehicle requirements, the state said.

“These bridge programs demonstrate how, by fostering partnerships among all levels of government, we can build a robust, responsive infrastructure system that provides efficient and safe transportation routes and boosts state and local economies,” said Gov. Laura Kelly. “My administration is committed to improving Kansas’ transportation system, including city- and county-owned bridges in need of overdue repairs.”

Kelly and Kansas Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz in a joint announcement noted that two bridge improvement programs were revamped to take advantage of $137.5 million in federal infrastructure funds that are slated to come to Kansas over the next five years.

“Most [agriculture] loads start in a field, are placed in a truck, and have to cross a county bridge to get to a state highway or rail line,” Lorenz said. “These local bridges are the lifeblood of many communities.”

Kansas is expected to receive $2.8 billion in federal funding over five years to fix the 1,321 bridges and more than 1,995 miles of highway that are rated in poor condition. As of the end of October, Kansas had been allocated more than $1 billion in dedicated funding for highway and bridge projects in 2022.

Federal funds helped the state’s Off-System Bridge Program expand from $8 million in funding to $20.5 million. KDOT established the program to comply with a federal requirement that not less than 15% of a state’s apportionment of Federal Highway Administration bridge funds (a grant program to repair on existing bridges at risk of falling into poor condition) to be used to replace or rehabilitate eligible bridges located on roads outside the federal aid system.

From a pool of 99 applications that sought a total of $84 million from the state’s Department of Transportation to repair off-system bridges, officials selected 22 projects with federal grants ranging from $460,000 to $1.4 million for federal fiscal 2024, which will stretch from Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024.

To be eligible to receive state funds for the Off-System Bridge Program, a bridge must be rated in poor condition by the National Bridge Inspection Standards.

Federal infrastructure funds (from FHWA) are also available to states to repair bridges. FHWA has advised states to allocate federal bridge funding to localities that historically have lacked resources for such projects. For example, if 50% of highway bridges (by count or deck area) within a state are in poor condition and located on the off-system, FHWA encourages the state to use 50% of its federal bridge funds to address those off-system bridge needs. For its off-system bridges, Kansas used federal funds as well as local funds that varied from 4% to up to 24.3% in contributions toward total costs.

Both of KDOT’s two bridge repair programs for off-system and local bridges have similar-yet-different eligibility requirements for city and county bridges not on the state highway system.

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Funds for both programs are awarded through an application process and usually require a local contribution. KDOT chooses bridges based on condition, detour length, inability to carry legal loads and past project history.

Federal funds also helped the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program increase from $5 million to $20 million. KDOT plans to replace 10 deficient local bridges and permanently remove seven bridges from the local system.

To qualify in this program, a bridge must need immediate rehabilitation to remain open, or closed due to structural inadequacies and previously defined as functionally obsolete. To compete for the $20 million awarded, KDOT received 114 applications for the local bridge improvements with requests totaling more than $126 million.