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King talks KDOT programs




Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Mike King likes to get out of the office.

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Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Mike King likes to get out of the office.

"I like getting out and speaking with people, promoting the programs that we have," said King, who was in Hays on Thursday afternoon.

One of those programs is local consult meetings -- a listening tour of sorts -- KDOT is hosting in eight locations throughout the state.

The Hays meeting will be from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 14 in the conference room of the Kansas Highway Patrol building, 1821 Frontier Road. The local meetings are a chance for KDOT to get input on projects important in the community, King said.

Projects are planned two years in advance. The next two years' projects will be announced next week.

"Local consults help us decide what has changed," he said.

One of the local projects KDOT is working on with Hays and Ellis County leaders is developing Exit 157 of Interstate 70. The money would come from a $10 million KDOT economic development fund.

A total of 34 Ellis County bridges are eligible for the $10 million program set up to improve bridges on local roads. To be eligible, a bridge must be 20- to 50-feet long and have less than 100 vehicles a day traveling on it. The deadline to apply is in September. KDOT pays 90 percent of the total up to $120,000, with a 10-percent match from communities.

Under the T-WORKS program, Ellis County has completed $10.6 million in projects and has projects costing $13.5 million scheduled.

"What a great partnership we have with Ellis County and the city of Hays," he said.

The general request in western Kansas is for widening of lanes and shoulders, he said.

Wider rights-of-way would mean softer shoulders, "so that if you do leave the travel surface, you don't instantly roll. So we're looking at widening shoulders at every opportunity that we can," King said.

More than half of the traffic on some western Kansas roads is semi traffic, "so that would be a great place to add passing lanes from a safety perspective point of view."

Since many in the western part of the state would like a divided four lane highway going north and south, KDOT is looking at what would make sense to do that.

King said a four-lane divided north/south corridor could start with passing lanes on an existing road, with four lanes added later.

"In overall funding, we're in really great shape in Kansas," King said.

Kansas ranks in the top five of states in the nation in nearly every category for road and bridge quality, he said.

He credits funding for the high marks.

This is the third 10-year highway program in a row for the state, "and that's how you do it, continual funding, continual improvement."