Kansas Governor's move for DOT takeover of Turnpike defeated but in bizarre move Sectrans to be COO

April 8, 2013

2013-04-08: The Kansas Turnpike lives on, kind of. Governor Sam Brownback's surprise move late January to disband the Authority and turn the state's big tollroad over to the state DOT has been soundly defeated in the state legislature. Late last week the state house and senate agreed on changes to save face for the Governor - they're all Republicans. But the bill as agreed (HB2234) generally maintains the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA) as an independent and separate entity.

The conference removed a provision sponsored by the governor that the secretary of transportation be chairman of the Turnpike Authority. It had earlier nixed a provision that the secretary of transportation (Sectrans) be the chief executive officer of the Turnpike Authority.

But in a bizarre compromise he gets the job of director of operations at the Turnpike.

State secretaries of transportation (Sectrans) are normally busy overseeing the state DOT's multiple modes. In Kansas the Sectrans would have to deputize someone, you'd think, to be their hands-on director of operations at the Turnpike. It's very much a fulltime job.

But would anyone want to be chief executive of the Turnpike with someone else having control over operations? Normally directors of operations are a second rung position along with directors of finance, engineering, marketing, human resources, procurement and the like.

Or would there be chief executive of everything-but-operations at the Kansas Turnpike?

Directors of operations normally work closely under the chief executive and hence to a board of directors. And what board of directors would want an outside political appointee unaccountable to them running the operations?

Best news is that this strange law, HB2234, would expire July 1, 2016.

The Turnpike remains as presently constituted - five directors, two appointed by the Governor, the Sectrans, the chair of the senate transportation committee, and the a fifth a member of the house transport committee as chosen by the House speaker. The five elect their own chairman.

The bill continues an existing legislative provision that the KTA's revenues may only be used on the Turnpike - for maintenance, operations and repairs, or for debt service. It continues to have the ability to pledge tolls to sell debt for Turnpike projects.

The bill provides that the Turnpike Authority and the state DOT will have authority to share resources and contract with one another for joint provision of services. It calls for KDOT and KTA to minimize duplication of effort, facilities, and equipment between KDOT and the KTA be minimized in operation and maintenance of the turnpike and untolled highways in the state.

Governor Brownback in a budget statement late January said the Turnpike and the DOT were a case of wasteful duplication and that $15m/year could be saved by disbanding the turnpike authority. The proposal took everyone by surprise, not least the Turnpike authority. It turns out $15m savings was a number someone at the state DOT conjured up out of almost nothing.

The bill now goes back to Brownback for signature or veto. Maybe he'll veto it and start-over? Or just leave things as-is?

If he signs HB2234 he could have his secretary of transportation out there next winter organizing salt spinners and snow plows on the Turnpike.


some of the strongest criticism of the Governor's proposal was given by Turnpike authority directors:


TOLLROADSnews 2013-04-08

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