Breaking News

Lawmakers question $15 million savings in merger of KDOT, Kansas Turnpike

Updated: 2013-02-28T03:21:14Z

BY BRENT D. WISTROM

Eagle Topeka bureau

— Frustration over how Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration would save $15 million a year by folding the Kansas Turnpike Authority into the Kansas Department of Transportation emerged during a Senate budget meeting Tuesday.

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, pressed KDOT Secretary Mike King to provide specifics on where the savings comes from, given that administration officials say the merger doesn’t portend any big changes in road construction and tolling.

“We have a whole laundry list of things we’d like to visit with,” King said about the savings. “As far as did we come up with a ‘here are the 19 things that added up to a $15 million,’ no we do not have that list.”

King suggested KDOT and KTA could save money by sharing engineering, pavement, purchasing and insurance services. But he declined to elaborate.

“I can’t be specific on where those are at,” he said, adding he would start working with the KTA to find those savings if lawmakers pass a bill allowing the KTA to fold into KDOT.

The $30 million in savings in 2014 and 2015 are part of Brownback’s proposed budget.

“It seems arbitrary,” Kelly said. “It seems like a number just picked out of thin air because that made the books balance.”

Andover Republican Sen. Ty Masterson said merging two huge transportation departments will certainly produce savings.

“There has to be a significant amount of duplication,” he said. “$15 million, in my opinion, is probably shy of what can probably be saved by just eliminating some duplication.”

The merger would put the independent KTA, which uses toll money to maintain the state’s 236-mile turnpike, inside of KDOT while retaining its board and authorities. Toll fees have to be spent on the turnpike, but the state could change laws to allow toll money for other projects, such as maintaining roads that link with the turnpike.

Reach Brent Wistrom at 785-296-3006 or bwistrom@wichitaeagle.com.

Deal Saver Subscribe today!

Comments

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Kansas City Star uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here