Kansas’ Infrastructure GPA Jumps, but Challenges Remain

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In Kansas City, Kansas today the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the 2018 Report Card for Kansas’ Infrastructure. The ASCE Kansas City and Kansas Sections gave the state an overall grade of a ‘C,’ an increase from the 2013 grade of “C-.” Five categories earned “C” grades: Bridges, Drinking Water, Energy, Levees, and Rail. The remaining four received “C-” grades: Aviation, Dams, Roads, and Stormwater.

The state’s G.P.A. improved thanks to investments in several categories of infrastructure, including bridges, dams, and levees. The energy category also improved when compared to 2013, in part due to developments in renewable energy. Residents also enjoy affordable energy prices.

However, areas of concern included the aviation and roads categories, both of which saw drops in grades when compared to 2013. This is in part due to the Kansas State Legislature’s actions to divert funds from the Transportation Works for Kanas (T-WORKS) statewide program to the general fund, in an effort to balance Kansas’ budget. Much-needed modernization and expansion projects across the state have now been delayed, and preservation dollars have slowed, as T-WORKS funding is diverted.

In addition to assessing nine categories of infrastructure, the Kansas Report Card also offered solutions to raise the grades. For starters, engineers caution that while recent investments are yielding results, state decision-makers should not let challenging budget cycles inhibit progress. Lawmakers must meet existing T-WORKS funding obligations, as well as identify new revenue by increasing user fees.

Second, ASCE members applauded the Kansas State Legislature for passing legislation that increases funding for public schools and urged localities to take advantage of a provision in the bill that allows for more bonding of school facilities. The 2013 Report Card included a chapter on schools, but due to lack of data this category is not graded in the 2018 report.  The updated Report Card urges better documentation of the condition of public school facilities across the state.

Finally, ASCE recommends strategic and purposeful investments be made in Kansas’ freight network to preserve Kansas City’s position as an intermodal hub. Freight traffic is forecasted to grow over the next decade, and while freight rail is preparing, funding for short line rail and roadways is insufficient.

To read the full 2018 Report Card for Kansas’ Infrastructure, and to learn how to get involved in sharing the grades, please visit the Kansas page by clicking here.

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