Archive for Thursday, August 4, 2005

City to get $2 million for work on De Soto

August 4, 2005

A trip in March to Washington, D.C., paid huge dividends to the city of Lansing with the announcement last week that the federal highway bill includes $2 million toward reconstruction of De Soto Road.

Mayor Kenneth Bernard and Council member Robert Ulin already were in town for a National League of Cities conference when they made a March 14 presentation to members of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts' staff about the city's plans for improving De Soto, a major north-south thoroughfare.

Those plans ultimately envision De Soto as a three-lane road with a center turn lane from Gilman Road to Eisenhower Road.

The three-phase, $14 million project "will improve access to the Leavenworth Industrial Park, connect the Lansing and Leavenworth Industrial Parks, facilitate continued commercial and residential growth, and provide for safer access by our citizens to and from Fort Leavenworth," the Lansing representatives told the senator's staff members.

The intent of the meeting was to convince Roberts' office of the need for the improvements and to receive federal funds toward that end. Follow-up letters, meetings with Roberts staffers in Kansas, and phone calls to Washington reminded the senator's office about the project.

City Council member Bob Ulin

City Council member Bob Ulin

Bernard and Ulin's work paid off Friday, when they learned of a $2 million appropriation for the project that had been included in the $286.4 billion federal transportation bill approved that day.

City officials are awaiting specifics from Washington to determine exactly how the money is to be spent on DeSoto Road, but City Administrator Mike Smith credited Ulin for being instrumental in Lansing winning the award, the first of its kind for a project in Lansing.

"A lot of credit is due to the contacts that Mr. Ulin has in Senator Roberts' office," Smith said.

Ulin, who represents Ward 3 on the council, had been a member of Roberts' Advisory Committee for Science and Technology, serving three years on the Information Technology Task Force and more recently as a member of the Steering Committee of Roberts' Homeland Security Task Force.

Public Works Director John Young said news of the appropriation was welcome.

"Anything we can pump into the economy here and do improvements with less burden to our local taxpayers is wonderful," he said.

Ulin said this request was for the first phase of the project, improving DeSoto from Eisenhower Road to 4-H Road.

Roberts inserted the funding for DeSoto Road into the transportation bill as one of the more than $94 million in projects earmarked for Kansas. Roberts called the $94 million "great news for Kansas."

The bill also includes an average of $338 million a year through 2009 for federal highway projects in the state, up from the current $321 million a year, Roberts said.

"The highway bill is a critical investment in the way of life for every Kansan : Not only does it improve roads and bridges, it adds to the transportation safety and the general economy of our state," Roberts said.

Roberts' office said Bernard and Ulin were instrumental in pushing for funding for the DeSoto Road project.

"It's good news for your area," said Molly Mueller, press secretary to Roberts. "We're just happy we were able to get it in there for you."

Ulin said the city's work in gaining funding for the project was far from complete.

"We intend to pursue additional grants over the next few years to help defray the expenses of the remainder of the project," he said.

The House and Senate each approved the transportation bill by an overwhelming margin Friday morning. President Bush signed the measure into law on Saturday.

"This important legislation will help provide the funding needed to carry out overdue work on critical highway and transportation projects, and it will strengthen and modernize the transportation networks vital to America's continued economic growth," Bush said in a statement.

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