TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Millions of federal transportation dollars are heading to communities across the state. The new money is geared toward improvements that won’t look like your typical road construction.
Projects will focus on walking and biking. The biggest award of $5.5 million will go toward improvements on the Flint Hills Trail.
Just outside of the city of Ottawa, the trail, which is 117 miles long and was created in place of old railroad tracks, will be connected so people won’t have to get off the path for a two-mile detour.
Local officials say the trail brings people to the city from across the country.
“I think it’s an exciting thing for our community, I do think it’s a transformation. I think it’s an opportunity for families to do something together when they’re not looking at their phones,” said Ottawa Mayor Sara Caylor.
On Thursday, Governor Laura Kelly and state leaders announced $13.8 million in transportation alternative projects shown below.
Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz said highways will continue to be the backbone of the state’s system, but these projects address different modes of travel.
“I think we absolutely are seeing, particularly as we come out of COVID, a renewed interest in our health and safety,” Lorenz said.
Some of the 18 projects are about more than just quality of life though, they focus on keeping Kansans alive.
“Make it safer for children to walk or bike to school. They’ll add sidewalks that will allow Kansans to walk, bike or use a wheelchair to access essential services like grocery stores or healthcare clinics,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “They’ll expand recreational opportunities for Kansans to encourage healthier lifestyles.”
In Ottawa’s case, officials said because the city is at the intersection of two major trails, the improvements will attract even more people to visit.
“We are excited when individuals come and find us, and then want to spend just a little bit more of their time here,” Caylor said.
“We’re excited when we can give people opportunities to get out and enjoy the beauty of what we’ve got here in our community, and here in Kansas,” she said.
In addition to the federal money, more than $3 million from the state and local governments is helping pay for projects. They could start construction in the summer of 2022.
The state will open up applications for the next round of projects in spring of 2022.