DALLAS -- The Kansas Department of Transportation has chosen Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. to senior manage the first installment of an $890 million bond program -- the department's first since the early 1970s.

The agency said last week that it named Smith Barney and co-managers Bear, Stearns & Co., Lehman Brothers, A.G. Edward and Sons, and B.C. Christopher to handle a sale in the first quarter of 1992. The size of this first installment is still undetermined. They were among 37 bidders.

"The underwriting team provides a blend of experience in investment banking and securities marketing that will provide a basis for the widest distribution of our securities on a national basis and regional level," said Kansas Transportation Secretary Michael L. Johnston. "We believe they provide a strong team for the first increment of the bonding program."

The first issue of the bond program originally was not expected until the summer, but Mr. Johnston said the schedule was changed because of the favorable interest rate environment.

"They have not yet set a dollar amount for the first sale," said Anita Helt, a spokesman for the department.

Kansas lawmakers approved a $890 million revenue bond issue in 1989 as part of a $2.65 billion highway program.

The agency last went to the bond market in 1985 with two refunding issues totaling $300 million. Ms. Helt said that debt might also be refinanced, adding. "That is still under consideration."

Department officials last Thursday also named the law firm of Burke, Williams, Sorensen & Gaar of Overland Park, Kansas as bond counsel for the first issue. Former state Sen. Norman Gaar, the head of the firm's municipal finance practice, will be lead counsel on the project.

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