Innovations in Transportation

Because of its prime location at the juncture of highways and railroads, transportation has always played a large role in Newton’s history. It seems that transportation will continue to be an important part of the city’s future as well, playing a key function in economic development efforts, and healthy lifestyle and sustainability initiatives.

Newton continues to be successful in economic development efforts in large part because of access to multiple modes of transportation. This was a major factor in Tindall Corporation’s decision to build its new facility here, giving City leaders evidence that investing in transportation infrastructure is good for the community’s economy.

Complete Streets

But in addition to continuing to improve Newton’s highways, rail lines, and local roads, The ReNewton Project explored several new transportation programs that could benefit its residents. Among those initiatives is the incorporation of a “complete streets” approach to the City’s codes, regulations, and construction standards.

“‘Complete streets’ is a framework for cities to use when planning and designing streets so that new streets accommodate not only automobiles, but also walkers and bikers,” said Tom Phillips, the consultant leading The ReNewton Project. “Using a complete streets approach also confirms the City’s commitment to children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.”

The plan encourages the City to look for ways to preserve and restore existing brick streets, explore funding to pave dirt streets, and adopt a formal policy on shared driveways and frontage roads.

Transportation Alternatives

Encouraging alternative forms of transportation was a common theme in ReNewton public forums, whether people were trying to protect the environment or improve public health.

Commuter Train

One visionary idea to come out of the public forums is to create a commuter train connecting Newton to Wichita as a way to combat rising energy prices. The train would connect people to Wichita public transit to travel to their jobs or recreational, cultural, or entertainment offerings in the metro.

Insights

“Newton was founded at the crossroads of the Santa Fe Railway and the Chisholm Trail. The railroad needed to cross Kansas. They needed a reliable water source for their steam engines. Cattle ranchers needed the quickest route to get cattle to market. Newton’s location provided for both industries. The same thing occurs today. If there is not a means to transport goods and services, the place will die. Transportation infrastructure is essential to the growth of a community.”
— Carl Harris, steering committee member and former City Commissioner

 “When somebody with a $3,000 bike and $300 worth of biking gear is out riding, that's cool. But when some working-class person is going down the street on a bike, it might mean that they either can't afford a car, or they've had a DUI or some other reason why they can't have a driver's license. And I know from my experience with some lower-income or immigrant families, there's a real stigma against wanting to ride a bike. It looks like you haven't made it. And I think that's something that we can change.”
— Chuck Regier, curator of exhibits, Kauffman Museum

“I think you could definitely find individuals interested in a daily commuter train. They wouldn’t have to have a vehicle that was reliable all the time to drive that back and forth. I think it’s definitely something we should pursue.”
— Suzanne Loomis, city engineer