The Kansas Department of Transportation is fanning out across the state to hear local voices as it updates the state’s Long Range Transportation Plan. That’s a smart move on the part of KDOT, as community residents across the state know firsthand where the needs are in their towns, cities and rural areas.

With eight meetings held in 10 days — and another swath promised for later in the year — that means residents have no excuse. If you have a burning desire to speak with KDOT officials, or see a need in your backyard that simply cannot wait, raise your voice. Take the responsibility of being an informed, engaged citizen.

“We want to go back around and talk with people to see if we missed any projects or if there are other projects that have emerged so that we can consider the full suite of projects as we go forward,” said Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz, according to The Salina Journal’s Eric Wiley. “A need in one community’s eyes may be a want in another community’s eyes.”

It can be easy to take the government to task for not listening to people. But in this case, the state is going out of its way to tell people: Our ears and eyes are open. Tell us want you want.

The department is also taking a broad look at the future of how we move in the state. Yes, KDOT is known for its state-spanning network highways, and that crucial infrastructure isn’t going anywhere. But society as a whole has been calling for different options, and that should be part of the conversation at these community meetings as well.

“We’re looking at all modes (of transportation) — certainly highways and bridges, but we’re also looking at aviation, transit, rails and bike and pedestrian,” Lorenz said. “We’ll ask people about different ways the future could unfold and then we will ask people what they like about these kinds of futures, what scares them about these kinds of futures and what investments will get us closer to the kinds of things you want to see in Kansas. That will help us as we start to think about a future transportation program.”

This is precisely what we need in a government transportation department. A focus on the future, and a determination to consult with folks on the ground about their needs and desires. KDOT should be commended.

Now it’s up to you: Make sure to speak up and speak out.