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The Kansas Department of Transportation recently introduced a new program to support projects that use technology to improve mobility and safety.
The Innovative Technology Program, announced Aug. 20, offers financial assistance to entities that are pursuing projects to update transportation technology, improve mobility and promote safety. Participating projects may include all modes of transportation, including road networks, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), rail, alternative fuels, transit and bicycle facilities.
Some $3 million per fiscal year will be made available for applicants. The application window, which opened Aug. 17, closes Sept. 18.
“As a leader in UAS, it’s important that we implement new technologies safely,” Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz said. “This program will help both rural and urban areas of the state improve the transportation system.”
Drone operation has been actively explored in the Kansas City region. The Mid-America Regional Council, which represents the nine-county Kansas City metropolitan area, released its Regional Unmanned Aircraft Systems Strategic Framework in September 2018. In the framework, the council outlines steps to form partnerships with various agencies, collect data on local concerns and develop a manual for drone usage.
Local units of government will administer the Innovative Technology Program projects, and no individual project will be awarded more than $1 million per cycle. The program requires a minimum 25% nonstate cash match, although additional consideration is given to applications that commit more than the minimum match amount. Applications from nongovernmental organizations will also be considered.
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According to KDOT, candidate projects may receive additional consideration if they support economic growth or aid in the retention of businesses. Geographic distribution will also be considered. Awarded projects will be announced before the end of October.
Constituents were afforded the opportunity to discuss transportation priorities during a series of public meetings held last fall. The Local Consult meetings, held in various regions throughout October and November, allowed people to bring up transportation issues and shape the state’s 10-year transportation program.
“Citizens at local consult meetings across the state last year stressed the need for technology opportunities to better position Kansas for the future,” Lorenz said.
The Innovative Technology Program was established through KDOT’s Eisenhower Transportation Legacy Program, known as IKE. Created in March, IKE is a 10-year program under which highway modernization and expansion projects are selected on a rolling basis every two years as a way to address pressing needs and adjust to fluctuating revenues. (President Dwight Eisenhower, the program’s namesake, was raised in Abilene, Kan.)
More than 2,000 constituents participated in local meetings to shape the IKE program. Key features include investments in broadband and new technologies and a continued commitment to multimodal transportation. In May, Lorenz and Gov. Laura Kelly announced preliminary engineering work on 40 highway projects commenced under the IKE program.
Kelly, who was elected governor in 2018, has authorized $216 million in sales tax revenue to remain in the state highway fund in fiscal 2020. This fund has enabled KDOT to lead multiple programs to bolster infrastructure projects.
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