Salina receives more than $22 million from US govt. for Smoky Hill River renewal project

·4 min read
The Mulberry Street crossing of the Old Smoky Hill River Channel. The United States Department of Transportation announced Salina is receiving $22 million in grant funding for the city's river renewal project as part of $2.2 billion in infrastructure improvements across 166 projects in the country.
The Mulberry Street crossing of the Old Smoky Hill River Channel. The United States Department of Transportation announced Salina is receiving $22 million in grant funding for the city's river renewal project as part of $2.2 billion in infrastructure improvements across 166 projects in the country.

The City of Salina is one step closer in securing funding for the Smoky Hill River Renewal project after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced $22.1 million will be awarded for the project.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced the award as part of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (R.A.I.S.E.) 2022 program.

The program is designed to assist with improving infrastructure. A total of $2.2 billion was awarded to 166 projects across the country.

The announcement said the funding in Salina will be used to replace seven bridges over the Old Smoky Hill River channel, construct approximately 3.4 miles of multi-use accessible trails, improve seven pedestrian crossings, improve three railroad-pedestrian crossings and install trail lighting. In addition, the project will construct a new, multi-modal hub, three pedestrian bridges, two electric vehicle charging stations, a pedestrian underpass, a pedestrian boardwalk and five recreational boat launches.

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"We are proud to support so many outstanding infrastructure projects in communities large and small, modernizing America’s transportation systems to make them safer, more affordable, more accessible and more sustainable," Buttigieg said in the release. “Using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this year we are supporting more projects than ever before.”

The City of Salina's logo for the Smoky Hill River Renewal Project. The city has reached a crucial point as the project is still in its early stages.
The City of Salina's logo for the Smoky Hill River Renewal Project. The city has reached a crucial point as the project is still in its early stages.

The river project, particularly the bridge replacements, will help with this modernization, with the transportation department recognizing it "will improve mobility, reduce congestion, and reconnect the (city's) underserved, neighborhoods to recreational features."

City applied for more funding

Salina applied to the R.A.I.S.E. program earlier this year for an amount just under $25 million.

On Aug. 2, grant administrators sent an email to the city, asking if the applied grant amount could be reduced down by $4.8 million to just over $20 million and still allow the scope of the project to be completed.

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During a special meeting of the Salina City Commission on Aug. 3, City Manager Mike Schrage said D.O.T. gave the city a short deadline of 5 p.m. that day to respond to the email.

"The only thing they're really looking for from us, today, is confirmation that the $4.8 million is available (by the city) and we're able to provide it," Schrage said.

In addition to the city providing some matching funds for the original grant application, the Friends of the Smoky Hill River also pledged to provide some matching funds.

Guy Walker, the president of the Friends' board of directors, said it could offer a little more funding as well, from close to $3.5 million to slightly more than $4 million.

"We do have to acknowledge that we feel like we're getting to the top of our abilities to fundraise," Walker said.

Walker also said the ability for the Friends to be able to fundraise to that amount is also "heavily dependent" on the public and donors to see progress being made on the project, with a proposed trail from Ohio Street around the Salina YMCA a good example of something that the public could look at as positive progress.

During the meeting, the commission voted 5-0 to authorize staff to respond to the grant administrators. Schrage said this is a big step moving forward for the project and for the city as a whole.

"We keep talking about generational projects, and this feels like another one," Schrage said.

Senators Moran and Marshall celebrate the grant

Thursday afternoon, Sens. Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall issued statements about the grant as well.

“This investment will support economic development for the City of Salina, create high-paying jobs, improve the safety of existing transportation systems and expand the local transportation infrastructure,” said Moran. “These federal resources will also help advance the revitalization of the Smoky Hill River recreational district located in the heart of Salina.”

Marshall added his congratulations to the community and said the new added features will make it a place for "residents and visitors to enjoy for years to come."

"We were able to provide important support to the City of Salina during the application process for this grant, and I’m proud of the results we helped deliver for Kansans,” Marshall said.

This article originally appeared on Salina Journal: Salina's Smoky Hill River project receives $22 million federal grant