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KCK eyes using funds from infrastructure law on stormwater system

kck culvert.jpg
Posted at 7:54 AM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 08:54:10-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Runoff from a rainstorm earlier this year overwhelmed and collapsed a culvert in northwestern Wyandotte County, forcing the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, to close Hubbard Road near 115th Street.

The county does not have the $150,000 needed to fix the culvert in its stormwater budget. As a result, there is no timetable on when the road will be repaired and reopened.

“There isn’t anything we can do for it right now, so it’ll just remain closed indefinitely and it is absolutely unacceptable” said Dave Reno, a community engagement officer for the Unified Government’s Public Works Department.

In the meantime, fire trucks, trash trucks, school buses and police cars have to take the long way around the road closure.

A report by U.S. Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), who represents the county in Washington, D.C., showed 80 percent of the Unified Government’s stormwater system will be in emergency status, like Hubbard Road, by 2031 if the public works department does not make changes.

“The truth is this closure [on Hubbard Road] is a crystal ball for Wyandotte County,” Reno admitted.

Help is on the way. President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure law sets aside millions for stormwater improvements nationwide. The law gives states a lot of discretion on which projects to fund. Local governments can also apply for additional grants directly from the federal government through the law.

Davids voted yes to approve that bill, pointing to her report on water systems and a previous report on bridges in the district as prime example for why the funding is necessary.

“We know that the impact is going to be that much bigger because we're actually addressing the needs that have been identified,” Davids said. “And then we can start making sure the solutions we're working on are truly going to be everything they possibly can be.”

Long-term, the Unified Government is considering changes to the way it funds stormwater projects.

Right now, every property owner pays a set user fee. Large shopping centers with big parking lots that generate a lot of runoff during rainstorms pay the same price as a home with a short driveway.

Leaders are considering a tiered fee structure to collect more money in fees in a more equitable and fair manner.

Even with the new infrastructure law and changes to the fee structure, Reno admits it would take the Unified Government years, if not a decade, to catch up on necessary repairs.

Stormwater systems are designed to keep water off the pavement because moisture can cause roads to deteriorate and form potholes.