Whether it’s a highway, a bridge or a bike trail, well-maintained transportation infrastructure keeps people, freight and technology moving. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has embraced this sentiment by creating the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program, more commonly called the IKE program, a 10-year-long initiative to modernize and grow transportation corridors throughout the state.
Since 2020, the IKE program has been preserving, expanding and modernizing Kansas’ transportation systems and technology. The program aims to serve both people-centric (public transit, bike trails, highways, bike/pedestrian infrastructure and bridges) and commercial-centric (short-line rails and aviation) modes of transportation.
Amid national staffing challenges and with a record number of projects to complete, KDOT searched for a project management consultant to fill the gaps. Burns & McDonnell teamed up with Garver to fulfill this role through a joint venture: IKE Transportation Partners (ITP). This partnership provides broad support to KDOT in delivering the IKE program and directly facilitates $1.2 billion worth of projects.
“By virtue of knowing you’ve got a trusted consultant on board, you’re able to steer your pool of resources to work with the brightest professionals to execute that project successfully,” says Agnes Otto, transportation director at Burns & McDonnell.
Creatively Managing Projects With Experienced Professionals
As a partnership that encompasses decades of experience in quality engineering, design and construction, ITP is well-equipped to provide direction for the IKE program’s transportation infrastructure projects.
Howard Lubliner, program manager at Burns & McDonnell, believes in a cohesive approach to leading these high-level conversations: “As much as most would like to believe that engineering is solely an equation-based practice, that’s not true. There's also nuance, subjectivity and creative decision-making that goes into building something new.”
ITP’s primary role is to manage a portion of the numerous and varied projects within the IKE program, with KDOT managing the bulk of the project portfolio. Along with project-based management, ITP assists with process improvements and tool development.
Thoughtfully Looking Toward the Future
The main goal of ITP is to influence the future of the IKE program. Establishing efficient processes, building strong relationships with communities and empowering the program to meet federal requirements builds a strong foundation for the program’s progress.
“The IKE program’s high production can be demanding, so we’ve implemented best practices from other state departments of transportation and even other industries,” Lubliner says. “The goal is to help build and evolve KDOT's own processes and technologies.”
By creating new data dashboards, as well as special tools for data visualization and corridor studies, the joint venture provided KDOT with modernized ways to analyze information. The partnership’s development of a new website enhanced transparency and communication with the public.
Otto sees the importance in grasping the full picture of the client’s demands: “By sitting down and really understanding the needs of KDOT, its field staff and Kansas municipalities, we are able to use multiple layers of data to develop useful technology for the IKE program.”
To integrate the input of Kansans, ITP supports KDOT in hosting a biannual local consult process, which includes meetings in each of the department’s six districts, giving Kansans statewide the ability to provide feedback on how to prioritize infrastructure. KDOT weighs a hybrid of engineering and public needs to select upcoming projects. Before the meetings are conducted, each infrastructure project is evaluated based upon its engineering need and later discussed with residents in an open forum. Integrating insights from Kansas residents has helped sharpen the focus of the IKE program, Lubliner says.
“When you ask people what they want from the government, a common answer is just for government officials to be thoughtful, proactive and good stewards of their tax money,” he says. “The IKE program's goal is to do that. Our team wants to efficiently deliver the best for Kansas.”
With ITP’s acceleration of IKE projects, Kansas taxpayers can look forward to stimulating the economy with extra money in their pockets — millions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer savings, that is. According to an analysis performed by ITP, the estimated cost savings due to KDOT’s quicker project life cycles total $123 million. Along with being completed faster, more projects are being completed: Approved construction projects in Kansas have recently increased by 200%, according to KDOT.
Enhancing the Day-to-Day Lives of Kansans
ITP’s work with the IKE program means a lot for Kansas: a boosted economy, tech-savvy transportation, more ways to travel and safer journeys.
An improved transportation infrastructure can attract new companies to an area. Lubliner says: “This program works to make sure Kansas transportation infrastructure is an active draw for industrial partners and companies to promote the health of our regional economy.”
Durable roads and modernized means of transportation can optimize a company's output and experience in a state. With the IKE program improving Kansas’ infrastructure, the state can provide more job opportunities, supported by the increase in freight travel, Otto says.
"When we look at a state like Kansas that has a large agricultural and commodity base, it’s critical to invest in ways to smoothly get freight into, out of and across the state,” she says. “As we’re looking to attract companies, those are all things companies look at to decide if they want to move here.”
Developing excellent transportation infrastructure in Kansas isn’t just about the money; it’s also to strengthen the Kansas experience for its people.
Projects that will impact Kansans more are prioritized. Whether it’s the bridge crossed on the day-to-day route to work, a town-favorite bike trail or the prettiest scenic route in Kansas, ITP values the projects that Kansans value, too. While preserving infrastructure in Kansas, the program also works to expand highways for ease of transportation and to improve roadways into safer means of travel.
“We are a steward for taxpayer dollars,” Otto says. “Kansans can look forward to smoother, safer rides."