Topeka faces a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve its transportation, says Jim Ogle, president of Downtown Topeka Inc.
Ogle was among officials who recently asked members of the Kansas congressional delegation to support the Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority's efforts to acquire a $25 million federal grant to establish a multimodal center at Forbes Field.
The center would serve as a hub linking various types of transportation, including Topeka Metro services, Greyhound buses, an airport shuttle and rail services.
In a recent letter to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Ogle wrote: "Transit has become critical for communities throughout our state. Likewise, this project and its connectivity will be critical to future sustainable growth. Opportunities like this only come around once in a lifetime. Our time is now."
Ogle, who also is general manager of WIBW-TV, was among local officials who asked congressional delegates to support Topeka Metro's application for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to provide federal stimulus money for capital investments in transportation.
"This is an incredible opportunity, and we need to explore it," Janlyn Nesbett-Tucker, Topeka Metro's chief executive officer, said Wednesday.
Topeka Metro expects to hear in December or January from the Federal Transportation Authority if its application for the $25 million grant has been approved.
Topeka Metro board chairman Rodd Miller told The Topeka Capital-Journal last week that if the project is selected, local matching for the grant would be about 20 percent, or $5 million, which could come in the form of land and other assets instead of strictly cash.
Aside from Ogle, others who wrote letters of support to congressional delegates included Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George; Joe Wrona, Topeka senior operations manager for Mars Chocolate, North America; interim city manager Dan Stanley; Doug Kinsinger, president and CEO of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce; Topeka Metro's Miller; Eric Johnson, president/airports manager for the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority; and Olivia Simmons, president and CEO of Visit Topeka Inc.
Kinsinger wrote to Roberts that establishment of the center would "improve our community's economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability, as well as bring together public and private investments."
He wrote, "The potential of intercity rail, as well as intercity bus, taxi and car rental services, all in one location is an asset that would be very attractive to companies looking to locate in the Topeka area, as well as those that presently have facilities in our community."
Kinsinger said having a multimodal center at Forbes Field would enhance the opportunities of bringing scheduled passenger airline service to its airport.
George, the commerce secretary, wrote to Roberts that the center would not only strengthen the region's transportation network by integrating several forms of transportation but also would be the key to recruiting five-star businesses, such as Mars Chocolate.
"This facility represents a much-needed regional structure to converge all modes and allow our area to continue competing in the 21st century," he wrote.
Mars Chocolate manager Wrona wrote to Roberts that the multimodal center, "which will strengthen the transportation network of this region by integrating several forms if transportation, is important to Mars Chocolate as a new business partner."
Wrona also wrote, "The city of Topeka and the entire Topeka metropolitan region are on the verge of an exciting transformation, and a sound and diverse transportation network is vital to the success of the area businesses."
Mars broke ground in August for a project to build a chocolate factory on property in the Kanza Fire Commerce Park southwest of S.W. 77th and Topeka Boulevard, a couple of miles from Forbes Field.
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 email@example.com