In what could be at least a temporary blow to the road construction industry in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Transportation announced, on Tuesday, it will only spend $44 million on new projects in the next fiscal year.
For the past several years KDOT has let about $400 million just on preservation projects, including roads and bridges.
Bob Totten, of the Kansas Contractors Association, said some companies in the state have laid off workers due to the KDOT cuts, but most are finding work in neighboring states. Contractors are starting to find additional work in Nebraska which has has slowly been raising its gas tax over the last three years to fund road projects. Kansas companies are also finding work in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Gov. Sam Brownback wants to sweep $600 million from KDOT in the next two years to balance a budget devastated by the 2012 tax cuts. Since 2011, $1.3 billion has been swept from KDOT and preservation projects all over the state have been delayed.
In the past two months 34 road preservation projects have been delayed. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan told the legislature after the governor’s state of the state address that KDOT will not begin any new expansion projects in the next two fiscal years.
While the contractors are worried Kansas roads will substantially deteriorate with these cuts, KDOT maintains state roads are doing just fine. The department says in 2015 98 percent of interstate highways exceeded performance targets for road conditions and 90 percent of other state roads are in good condition.
KDOT also stresses that it will spend $286 million on projects already approved or underway.