Kansas bill would hand over turnpike to state DOT

| 2/5/2009

A Kansas state lawmaker wants to turn over control of the Kansas Turnpike Authority to the state. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is skeptical that the outcome would benefit turnpike users.

Rep. Bill Feuerborn, D-Garnett, is the author of a bill that would abolish the Turnpike Authority and shift its powers and functions to the state Department of Transportation.

Feuerborn said the transfer would help address the state’s huge budget deficit.

Looking down the barrel of a shortfall that could grow to nearly $1 billion by the start of the fiscal year on July 1, Feuerborn said tolls collected on the 236-mile roadway could reinvigorate state government with revenues, which totaled nearly $80 million in 2007.

He also points out that when state law authorized the creation of the Turnpike Authority it was envisioned that turnpike operations would be transferred to the state once the cost of building the highway had been paid.

“When the bill was originally passed, it stated that once the bonds were paid off on the initial cost of developing the turnpike it would revert to the Kansas Department of Transportation,” Feuerborn told Land Line Now on XM Satellite Radio.

According to the Turnpike Authority’s Web site, the handover is contingent on the bonds being paid off and the roadway being in good condition. “These two conditions are not likely to happen at the same time, as keeping the road in good repair requires capital investments from bond issues,” the site declares.

Even then, “KDOT could continue tolling the road even if it were to be under state control.”

Officials with OOIDA doubt that handing off the turnpike to the state DOT would achieve the intended goal.

“If turnpike revenues were to start going directly to the DOT without some kind of commitment, I would suspect the state DOT might very well find uses for that money other than the turnpike, which certainly would be a cause for concern,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line.

The bill – H2178 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Kansas in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.