September 23, 2023
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Governor Laura Kelly (D) (above center) and Julie Lorenz (above at right), the outgoing Kansas Department of Transportation secretary, recently announced the disbursement of $40.5 million through two different state programs to fund 33 local and off-system bridge projects statewide.

[Above photo by the Kansas Governor’s Office]

“My administration is committed to improving Kansas’ transportation system, including city- and county-owned bridges in need of overdue repairs,” the governor said in a statement.

Gov. Laura Kelly. Photo by the Kansas Governor’s Office.

“These bridge programs demonstrate how, by fostering partnerships among all levels of government, we can build a robust, responsive infrastructure system that provides efficient and safe transportation routes and boosts state and local economies,” she added.

Gov. Kelly noted that local bridge funds for cities and counties through the Kansas DOT’s Off-System Bridge and Kansas Local Bridge Improvement programs received a $137.5 million boost over the next five years from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA enacted in November 2021.

Kansas DOT noted that the Off-System Bridge program has expanded from $8 million to $20.5 million in yearly funding due to IIJA fiscal support. Meanwhile, the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement program went from $5 million to $20 million annually due to IIJA funds.

Julie Lorenz. Photo by the Kansas DOT.

“These local bridges are the lifeblood of many communities,” noted Kansas DOT’s Lorenz. “Most [agricultural] loads start in a field, are placed in a truck, and have to cross a county bridge to get to a state highway or rail line. Congratulations to these Kansas communities for partnering with Kansas DOT and securing local matching funds that keep critical bridges open to the public and moving commerce.”

State departments of transportation across the country provide a range of funding programs for local bridge needs.

In April, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) announced that more locally owned bridges would be eligible for funding as part of modified state program that opened eligibility to 238 bridges, up from 54.

Gov. DeWine. Photo by the Ohio DOT.

During the current funding cycle, that Ohio program will pay up to 95 percent of the construction and engineering costs for major bridge projects with a cap of $20 million.

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, the Bridge Improvement Grants or BIG program – established in 2015 – sets aside $7 million per year from funds generated by license plate fees to repair and replace aging local bridges.

Local governments are required to pay a minimum of 20 percent matching funds and have three years to expend the grant, noted the South Dakota Department of Transportation, while counties must have a wheel tax and a five-year Highway and Bridge Improvement Plan to receive a grant.

“The BIG program continues to be crucial for the preservation, rehabilitation, and replacement of local government structures,” said Joel Jundt, secretary of the South Dakota DOT, in a statement.

“The goal [of this program] is to enhance the overall condition of these critical assets that South Dakotans are dependent upon each and every day,” he added. “These structures provide the link that drives the interconnectedness of our state’s overall transportation system; while enhancing statewide economic development overall.”

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