The transportation landscape is changing, and quickly.
Kansas cannot afford to be left behind.
Much of the focus in recent years has been on the state’s transportation plan launched nearly a decade ago. The 10-year T-Works program was designed to cover maintenance and improvements for all modes of transportation, and also was a needed economic stimulus in putting people to work in the wake of the Great Recession.
Unfortunately, the shortsighted diversion of significant funding from T-Works projects in subsequent years on then-Gov. Sam Brownback’s watch drove the state backward. The decline in the quality of roads and bridges was felt in all parts of Kansas.
And now, a new 10-year transportation plan — one that not only addresses safety and economic development needs, but also gets the state up to speed with changing technology — is in order to help the state move forward.
One area in particular that demands attention in Kansas, but hasn’t been at the forefront considering the attention on roads and bridges, centers on the proliferation of electric vehicles — and with their increased presence, the need for more electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations that give drivers convenient opportunities to pull over and charge up.
Kansas has made progress toward becoming more user-friendly for those motorists with additional charging stations statewide designed to curb the likelihood of “range anxiety,” or the fear of electric-car batteries running out of power before motorists reach their destinations.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has allocated $2.3 million — about 15 percent of Volkswagen Settlement funds that came to Kansas — to grow the EV charging infrastructure in the state. (The VW Settlement involved allegations of the car manufacturer violating the Clean Air Act.)
The Kansas Department of Transportation, Kansas Turnpike Authority and KDHE have worked with Westar Energy and Kansas City Power and Light on electric-vehicle infrastructure initiatives. A recent news conference in Topeka celebrated the addition of charging stations at the Topeka, Lawrence and Towanda service areas on the Kansas Turnpike.
It was welcome news at a time charging station availability should reflect the interest in putting more electric vehicles on the road. EV charging stations should one day be as common and accessible as traditional gas stations that now dot the landscape — especially as electric vehicles become a more desirable alternative for consumers.
In acknowledging the stepped-up demand to come, automotive manufacturers are projected to spend some $500 billion in the next several years on electric-vehicle development. Improved technology and greater affordability of electric vehicles will make them even more appealing to buyers.
Then there’s the benefit of a healthier environment as the trend toward more all-electric vehicles promises to lessen the nation’s dependence in fossil fuels.
With progress on the charging-station front and clear interest in cleaner air, it’s encouraging to see Kansas once again on board with forward-thinking initiatives that fit the evolving world of transportation.