The Senate Transportation Committee had a hearing Thursday on a bill that would potentially expand the number of toll roads in the state, but only for newly constructed portions with a lot of caveats ahead of any changes.

“The changes allow a local government to use toll revenue as a local match to help leverage state funding,” said acting KDOT secretary Julie Lorenz. “Few locations in Kansas have sufficient toll volumes to make tolling a viable revenue source to pay for a portion of the cost of construction and maintenance. In those circumstances where there may be enough traffic, the bill will only allow tolling under consultation with local communities.”

Lorenz explained that the bill as written would change the law in two ways.

“Tolls are currently required by law to cover the complete cost of a project, including all project construction and maintenance,” said Lorenz. “KDOT studied several corridors for toll feasibility and none in the state have sufficient traffic to make tolling feasible to cover the full cost of a project. The bill would allow for tolling to cover a portion of project cost. The second change relates directly to the Kansas Department of Transportation. KDOT may study the feasibility of tolling, but cannot work with communities to add toll to a project improvement under current law. The Legislature must approve tolling of a new project. The bill would allow KDOT to consult with communities to determine and then implement tolling as a part of a funding package.”

There are a couple of projects that might work if the new law were passed in the Wichita area, but there is a concern that this could open up Pandora’s box to allow for tolling in areas where it isn’t allowed now if projects are built that increase the capacity of existing highways.