Kansas officials seek more federal funding for transportation

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WICHITA — State officials  called for increased awareness and more federal funding for rural  transportation in Kansas and the nation.

Speaking in Wichita this morning, Kansas transportation secretary Deb Miller and agriculture secretary Josh Svaty said growing agricultural, energy and military needs will require more than building more roads.

The challenges will have to be met through improved aviation, public transit and rail systems, as well, they said.

Miller and Svaty were responding to a national report, “Connecting Rural and Urban America,” prepared by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which represents state transportation departments.

The report, released in Kansas, Wyoming and Arkansas today, says growth in agriculture and energy, as well as increases in trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, will require the nation to expand its transportation options.

Svaty said transportation is vital to the state’s economy because it connects Kansas farmers to services and markets.

Most agricultural products move by truck, Miller said, but the state needs a strong rail link to regional and national markets to meet the challenges that come with economic opportunities and expansion.

Kansas’ short-line railroads move an annual average of 175,000 carloads of goods throughout Kansas, Miller said.

“When you consider that each carload can haul an amount equal to three or four truckloads, you understand that railroads also save our highways a tremendous amount of wear and tear,” she said. “And that alone is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Miller praised the state for being forward-looking and proactive with its transportation plans.

But she urged the U.S. Congress to get more serious about funding the nation’s growing transportation needs when it reconvenes.