KDOT holds meetings on future of Kansas transportation

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

The Kansas Department of Transportation held a meeting in Wichita Tuesday for people to voice their opinions on the future of Kansas transportation plans.

They highlight a 25 year plan that will start for the fiscal year 2020. Included are projects in and outside of the Wichita area for smaller communities. Money is a big topic in the discussion according to one department of transportation official.

"We've identified over $18 billion worth of wants and needs by communities," said Julie Lorenz, secretary for the Kansas Department of Transportation.

According to Lorenz, this is in addition to the $435 million in projects that were already promised to be completed. As for the future, there is a $50 million allocation plan that includes a $50 million transfer from the state general fund to the state highway fund, according to a sheet handed out at the meeting. It states it was approved by the governor and the legislature, only if the investment can be grown with city and county contributions. For example, it states there must be a 25 percent minimum match from the city or county for a project to be eligible. The money in this plan as well as any more money approved will be allocated to different programs and different parts of projects to get the jobs done.

It was a large crowd at the Wichita State University Eugene M. Hughes Metropolitan Complex to discuss these issues and some in attendance said they had some things they would like to see fixed.

"Trying to develop those right of ways to meet the needs of all Kansans," said Kim Austin, a woman a part of the nonprofit Andover-Augusta Rail to Trail Initiative.

Austin and her nonprofit are there to maintain the red bud trail. According to Austin, the main issue deals with signage and how there's not enough of it that points to trails like that one. Also, she said there is an issue dealing with expanding those same right of ways.

"I'd also like to see some of the KDOT right of ways be opened up to create more pedestrian avenues along existing highway right of ways," she said.

Austin said she has also noticed more people moving into the state, which she believes could cause traffic issues in the future. A problem that the department is well aware of.

"We need a system that serves all Kansans," Austin said.

With plenty of projects on the docket, and the future of transportation in the air, the department wants to start forming a vision of what the community wants and residents like Austin want to see it through to make it better and make it last.

"We do have a good reputation for transportation and I would like to see that forward into the future," Austin said.

There are two more meetings left in the month of August. One is in Dodge City on August 28 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., the other is in Hays on August 29, also from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m..