Who pays for road repairs when the state doesn't?

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Funding to fix and update your roads has dropped by nearly 60% in the last few years according to the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).

In a recent report to lawmakers KDOT said funding for road maintenance fell to $131 million in fiscal year 2017 from more than $400 million a few years ago.

Every driver can think of at least one road or intersection that needs work.

"On the highway, over there by the west mall, that needs to be fixed," said Seth Ralstin.

"There's always the places that clog up," added Nichole Varner. "On Kellogg and then in North Wichita."

"The 96/I-35/254 interchange. It comes together in quite a mess," said Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell.  

Thursday morning he announced the city's latest series of planned projects to fix some of those problems. Good roads, he says, are vital to keep the city growing and employing Kansans. 

"You can't do that unless you have access and you can get the trucks, you know, through those areas safely," Longwell explained.

In fiscal year 2017, which ended this last July, the state spent just less than half what it spent just a couple years previously.

"That's always been a concern," Longwell said, "because we have projects today that could use those funds."

As the state spent less, Wichita has been spending more. That essentially means taxpayers are paying for road work twice. 

"The fact that we've primarily built Kellogg with a lot of the local dollars, I don't truly believe has ever really been fair to locals," the mayor added.

City money that pays for roadwork can't go toward other city projects and services, say things like clean water, firefighters and police officers, for example.

That doesn't sit well with Wichitans who feel they've already paid for the road maintenance with their state taxes.

"It's like, where is the money going? If you have all the taxes, and you have a plan for where they should go, why aren't they going there?" questioned Varner.

"That's kind of ****, isn't it?  I don't know if I can say that!" laughed Marcia Reyes.

The city says this year the state has started helping pay for some of the new projects along Kellogg and KDOT funding for road maintenance has more than doubled to $312 million for fiscal year 2018.  But KDOT says it needs some $600 million for the next fiscal year to get caught up on road improvement projects delayed after years of the state taking money meant for roads to pay bills elsewhere.

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