A portion of the old Strang Interurban Railway remains at the center of Strang Park in Overland Park.Strang Park in northern Overland Park will be next to get a makeover. The city is planning to redo its master plan of the roughly 10-acre park just south of Central Resource Library, with an all-inclusive play area on its list of possible improvements.The City Council approved $98,500 to hire Vireo, a Kansas City landscape architecture firm, to start work on the design of the park at 89th Street and Farley Street.Greg Ruether, director of parks services, said the park is long overdue for improvement. Other than some resurfacing, there hasn’t been any significant work on the park in 30 years, he said.The park has tennis and basketball courts, a loop walkway, shelters and historical signage. The city’s wish list for improvements includes a new restroom, new shelters and upgrades to the loop path along with the inclusive play area.The city is planning to keep the historical panels on the site and potentially add more historical elements.But the city also has asked Vireo to give recommendations about other amenities that incorporate new design trends and complement the neighborhood. The historical panels would be kept, according to city documents. The city’s instructions to Vireo also request historical elements be included.The park is named for William B. Strang, who built the Interurban Railroad connecting cities in the area. There are remnants of the track at the park.The process will involve public input similar to what was done when the city redesigned Santa Fe Commons Park. Vireo will work with a steering committee of park stakeholders and will hold two open-house style public meetings to discuss what will become the new master plan. There will also be an on-line app and dedicated Facebook page for people to voice their opinions.The council approved the initial agreement with Vireo with no discussion. The Strang Park project is already in the city’s five-year plan, with a total cost estimate of $2.2 million.
U.S. Sen. Tom UdallU.S. SENATE News:WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined committee chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to convene a legislative hearing on five bills, including the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act and the Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act.The Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act, introduced by Udall along with U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), would accelerate the deployment of broadband services to Native communities by coordinating and improving the effectiveness of federal resources. The Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Udall, would create a behavioral health program to help Tribes develop solutions that include culturally-appropriate efforts aimed at prevention, treatment, and recovery. The bill would create the Special Behavioral Health Program for Indians—the SBHPI—which would be modeled after the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI).“My bill, the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act, would improve the deployment of broadband in Indian Country by shoring up broadband programs at the FCC and the USDA,” Udall said in his opening statement. “It also establishes a pilot program for Tribes to permit rights-of-way for broadband deployment on Tribal lands and a Tribal Advisory Committee so that Congress can tailor legislation to truly meet Indian Country’s broadband needs. “[The] Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act, which I am proud to support as a co-sponsor, would create a Special Behavioral Health Program for Indians to help Tribes access flexible resources to address their communities’ mental health needs. The severe lack of access to comprehensive culturally-competent behavioral and mental health services in Native communities is one of the many disparities that the current COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare. And this bill – which builds on the successful SDPI model – is an important tool we should work to provide Tribes as quickly as possible,” continued Udall.All Pueblo Council of Governors Chairman Michael Chavarria and Hopi Nation Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma testified in support of both bills. Nuvangyamo stated, “Modeled after SDPI, [the Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act] would provide Tribes with critical resources to battle mental and behavioral health challenges in our communities. Further, [the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act] is needed now more than ever as we are relying heavily on broadband service during the ongoing pandemic.”Chavarria then stated, “The Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act would provide Pueblo members with the tools they need to plug into urgently needed behavioral and mental health services and stay afloat…The Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act contains numerous provisions that would help facilitate advancements in high-speed broadband deployment and access in Tribal communities like ours.” Udall subsequently asked Chairman Chavarria how the broadband rights-of-way pilot program in the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act would benefit New Mexico’s Pueblo communities, especially during a national health crisis when access to the internet is absolutely necessary.“I believe the proposed legislation would benefit not just my Pueblo but all Tribal nations during the time of this pandemic and after,” Chavarria said. “COVID-19 has brought a glaring light on all the existing technological infrastructure disparities affecting Indian Country. Our families lack home broadband, students lack individual computers or iPads, hospitals have insufficient networks, and entire communities lack fiber optic cables and wireless capabilities. The Right-of-Way Pilot Program proposed in your bill will assist us all in addressing each of these barriers by helping us lay the foundation we need for community-wide broadband access.”
NEPAL: The Department of Railways expects to appoint consultants this month to undertake detailed studies for an electrified east-west railway in the central valley and a Kathmandu metro.Chungsuk Engineering, Scott Wilson and Systra have reportedly been shortlisted to prepare a detailed project report for the first phase of the east-west rail corridor, and 16 companies have expressed interest in designing the 136 km Bardibas – Simra – Birgunj section of the proposed Mechi – Mahakali line. The first stage would start from the Indian Railways broad-gauge railhead at Birgunj near Raxaul and head southeast towards Bardibas, just north of Janakpur which is currently served by Nepal’s only railway, a 760 mm gauge cross-border line from Jaynagar. An initial feasibility study for the complete 1 300 km east-west route was undertaken by Rites last year. This put the cost, including a branch from Pokhara to Kathmandu, at between Rs700bn and Rs800bn. Similarly, 16 companies have expressed interest in feasibility study for a 75 km metro network including a 27 km orbital line. After reducing the shortlist to six, DoR received tenders from four bidders: Chungsuk Engineering, Rites, Systra and Team Consulting Engineering & Management of Thailand. Bids were due to be opened on October 16, and DoR Director General Ram Kumar Lamsal told the Republica newspaper that he hoped to announce preferred bidders for both projects within two weeks.