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Politics
00000179-cdc6-d978-adfd-cfc6d7d40002Coverage of the issues, races and people shaping Kansas elections in 2016, including statewide coverage in partnership with KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, and High Plains Public Radio.

Dems Say Brownback Favoritism Behind Revived Highway Project

060316_Hwy69Rescued_Pittsburg.jpg
Andy Marso
/
KHI News Service
In April, KDOT announced a project to expand Highway 69 in Pittsburg, Kansas would be delayed. Now it’s back on. ";

A Kansas senator says a highway project in his district is back on schedule, drawing protests from Democrats who say Republican Gov. Sam Brownback picked that project over others to help a political ally in an election year.

The project to widen U.S. Highway 69 north of Pittsburg from two lanes to four was one of 25 delayed in April to help balance the state budget.

It sits in the district of Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner, who sent an open letter to Brownback decrying the delay.

In a subsequent interview at the Statehouse, LaTurner said that Brownback had traveled to his district while campaigning for reelection and pledged the highway expansion was coming.

“It’s very upsetting, especially after this administration has made multiple public promises to the people in my district that the road’s going to be built,” LaTurner said when the plans for Highway 69 were put on hold.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley predicted that Brownback would reverse course on the project to help LaTurner, who faces a reelection challenge from Lynn Grant, the widow of a popular former Democratic House member.

Hensley had sent a letter to Brownback saying any attempt to “cherry-pick” one of the delayed projects over another — including one in his district — would be seen as political favoritism.

According to LaTurner, the governor’s office has committed $25 million to start the project and will choose a contractor by Oct. 1. No other projects on the April list have yet been rescued.