Lawmakers Meet To Weigh State Transportation Plan

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As part of an effort to trim budgets amid a $137 million deficit, Kansas highway officials recently delayed $209 million worth of upcoming highway projects.

The state transportation secretary says it would be irresponsible for the state to begin projects without knowing whether it could pay to finish them.

Lawmakers met in Wichita Monday to weigh the state's 10-year comprehensive transportation program against the state's budget woes and lower tax revenues in a slowing economy.

Local leaders are bringing their transportation priorities to five hearings being held around the state, the first of which was held in Wichita.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh listed highway construction priorities on the county's wish list, including the state purchasing the rights of way for the northwest bypass from K-96 near Maize to Highway 54 near Goddard. They would also like to see new interchanges at Kellogg and I-235 and 47th Street South and the Kansas Turnpike.

The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce says a southern Kansas four-lane is long overdue.

"We would like to see US 54 to the west four-laned and possibly an eastern
four lane in Kansas," said Bernie Koch, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.

"Delaying is probably not a good idea for any of these projects assuming we
can afford to do them," said Senator Les Donovan, (R) Wichita, Committee Chairman.

One thing committee members seem to agree on is that Kansas cannot afford to let state highways fall back into the disrepair they were in 20 years ago when the first 10-year plan was made.

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