Kansas City spent $2.2 million in city and federal stimulus funds in 2011 to build and equip a modern traffic management center to help improve traffic flow and minimize disruptions.
But a new audit finds the city never properly staffed the center at 5310 Municipal Ave., so it has never been used effectively.
The city should plan how to pay for its operations before building or expanding facilities, City Auditor Doug Jones told the City Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in presenting the audit Thursday.
The audit showed that the city spent $1.9 million in federal stimulus funds and $345,000 in city funds on the new center.
Jones noted that other cities used these traffic management centers to monitor traffic and street conditions, actively balance traffic flows and adjust traffic signal timing in response to incidents, street closures or events. Denver and Overland Park have four full-time people, Minneapolis has three, and Olathe has two.
Kansas City has a part-time technician in the center only on weekday mornings. That person mainly concentrates on traffic signal control and management. The audit says the city has never used the full capabilities of the traffic signal network, computer systems and equipment.
City Manager Troy Schulte told the committee that the city thought the use of federal stimulus funds was an unusual opportunity to create a long-term beneficial facility. But the duration of the recent economic downturn limited the city’s ability to add people to properly staff the center.
Schulte pledged to the committee that he would work on providing sufficient money in next year’s budget, beginning in May 2014, to hire three or four people to properly staff the center. He said that money would have to come from elsewhere in the public works budget.
“We’ll fix it,” he said.