Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Governor appoints task force to study transportation plans

August 20, 2008

— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius last week kicked off the start of the state's next transportation program.

But funding will be a challenge.

The governor shut the door on any increase in the motor fuels tax, and she's asked a new 30-member task force to get creative about financing.

"With current fuel prices at all-time highs I cannot support any increase in motor fuel taxes and ask that the task force look to other approaches," Sebelius said in her charge to the group.

Instead, Sebelius said, the task force should look at new financing methods that will rely more on tolls, as well as leveraging federal, state and local funding.

"The state will be best served if the task force reviews a range of transportation investment scenarios and considers approaches that could be implemented in stages, if necessary," she said.

With those instructions, it appears a future transportation plan will look different from the current $13 billion, 10-year program that ends soon, and a 10-year program previous to that. Both of those programs relied on increasing motor fuels and sales taxes, along with borrowing.

The public can get into the act. By mid-September, an online interactive calculator at kansastlink.com will allow Kansans to develop their own Kansas transportation program and determine costs and funding options.

The task force - officially called Transportation-Leveraging Investments in Kansas, or T-LINK - includes a who's who of transportation officials. It will be chaired by Kansas Transportation Secretary Deb Miller and Tim Rogers, chairman of the Salina Airport Authority.

Miller, who said the task force would issue a report to Sebelius by year's end, knows Kansans are wary about what's on the economic horizon.

But, she added, "We always need to be investing in transportation. We can't sit back and do nothing."

Representatives of the trucking and road construction industries, and numerous political and economic development officials will serve on the task force. Patricia Weaver, executive director of the Kansas University Transportation Center, has also been appointed.

The task force will conduct its first meeting Aug. 27 in Topeka and then has scheduled "local consultation" meetings in September in Ulysses, Hays, Hutchinson, Abilene, Topeka, Olathe, Wichita and Pittsburg. The Topeka meeting will be Sept. 19 at the Ramada Inn, 420 E. Sixth St.

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