Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/22/1999 09:07 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 149 "An Act relating to awards of federal funds to municipalities for road projects and to the statewide transportation improvement program; and providing for an effective date." This was the first hearing for this bill. Co-Chair John Torgerson made general remarks to the bill. There had been discussion in committee regarding appropriation to specific transportation projects, which the department failed to do even after the projects passed the entire legislative process and was approved by the Governor. This legislation would address that. It would also place into statute, under the Community Road Program, how the funds would be broken down. MARY JACKSON, staff to Senator John Torgerson came to the table. The bill contained two things. It would put the Statewide Transportation Program (STIP) into statute and it would establish a new program for municipalities. She gave a sectional analysis of the bill. Section 1 set the STIP into statute and broke it down into three components: the National Highway System, the Community Transportation Program and Trails and Recreation Access for Alaska. It established a percentage value for all federal funds. It also set out a process for revising the STIP to give direction to the department. It made clear the legislative process was clear when the Legislature took action on a STIP during the budget process. Subsection (b) addressed the CTP and established the categories and percentages. The Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) was identified at 30 percent. Remote Areas was identified at ten-percent. State Highway Systems was identified at 15 percent. Gravel Improvement and Upgrades was identified at 15 percent as well. Reconstruction and Transfer was identified at ten-percent. Finally, Statewide Competitive was identified at 20 percent. Subsection (C) gave direction to the department on how to rank the projects with priority given to road that would be upgraded from gravel or asphalt treatment and turned over to a municipality for maintenance. They intent was to reduce the cost of maintenance to the department. Subsection (d) stipulated that if there were not sufficient projects within a component, a transfer to other categories was provided. Subsection (e) gave definitions. Section 2 provided the Gravel to Pavement was a separate program that would sunset after four years. The 15 percent allocation for that category would transfer to the Statewide Competitive category. It also stipulated that projects could not be included in this category if they qualified for either the NHS or TRAAK programs. Section 3 gave the definitions with reference to the Gravel and Pavement category and would sunset in four years. Section 4 was a new program for the award of federal funds to municipalities. This would allow the municipalities to come to the department with projects that qualified under federal program eligibility standards. The municipalities would undertake construction of the projects and provide the matching grant requirement. Sections 5 and 6 were the effective dates for the components. Mary Jackson noted that representatives were present from the department and the National Highway System. Co-Chair John Torgerson wanted to hear from the representatives but did not intend to take up amendments at this meeting. Senator Al Adams commented that some of the projects would be passed along to municipalities. He wanted to know if the bill contained language that shifted liability from the state to the municipality, once the funds were transferred. He also commented that the percentages should not be dictated. While he felt the remote category should be at least 15 percent, he didn't believe the limitations should be placed on the department. Co-Chair John Torgerson felt those were good questions for the department. He commented that the matter had been discussed and the proposed percentage amounts closely mirrored history. Senator Al Adams noted the available funding amounts fluctuated. TOM BRIGHAM, Director, Division of Statewide Planning, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities was called to the table to respond to Senator Al Adams's concerns about local liability. The department believed it was never completely off the hook, according to Tom Brigham. Language in the bill would help however. In addressing Senator Al Adams's concerns about the ten- percent allocated to rural projects, Tom Brigham said it would depend on the future of sanitation roads in rural communities. If you look at the out-years currently projected for the program, ten-percent was not unreasonable. However, Public Health Service and Village Safe Water staff saw additional projects on the horizon and felt a higher percentage would be needed. Senator Al Adams wanted to know if language could be added to limit the state's liability. Tom Brigham responded that the Attorney General would be better suited to address the matter. Senator Gary Wilken wondered why a particular area of the state was singled out (Anchorage) and wanted to know if other areas such as Fairbanks should be considered for inclusion. Senator Gary Wilken had a question on what would happen when the gravel to pavement provision sunset. Mary Jackson responded that the intent was the percent allocated to that program would be added to the statewide competitive category. Senator Gary Wilken wanted to know the percentage allocation for the six categories in the past for comparison. Co-Chair John Torgerson said there wasn't officially an FMATS established for Fairbanks even though there was some money appropriated to it. However, the question was well taken. Tom Brigham confirmed. Senator Gary Wilken then asked what was the FMATS if it was not an official organization. Tom Brigham said it was an operating agreement between the Department of Transportation and Public Utilities, the borough, the City of Fairbanks and the City of North Pole. Once the urban area of Fairbanks reached 50,000 people, it would then qualify. At that point, the department would treat it in the same manner AMATS was treated. Senator Gary Wilken wanted to make sure the matter was clear before the bill was moved from committee. Senator Lyda Green asked how the Gravel to Pavement Upgrade timeframe was established. Was the intent that all projects would be completed in four years, or if projects after that date would not be listed in the separate allotment? Co- Chair John Torgerson said the target was set by the TEA21. Mary Jackson confirmed and detailed. DAVE MILLER, Assistant Division Administrator, Federal Highway Administration, came before the committee to address the municipal road project portion of the bill. Title 23 in itself specifically allowed for states to contract with municipalities or other governmental agencies to conduct projects. He read the specific language into the record. The same provision stipulated that the state agency was not relieved under federal law or regulation in the event it utilized the services of another organization. In his interpretation, that held the state responsible for assuring compliance with federal regulation. Senator Al Adams asked if federal law allowed an appropriation to rural Alaska or if the funds were granted in a lump sum to the state for disbursement. Dave Miller answered that TEA21 provided funds to the state in a number of general categories. Considerable flexibility was granted to the State Of Alaska that was not normally considered for other states. The subcategories proposed in this bill was a practice done throughout the US and was acceptable but not necessarily encouraged. Dan Miller noted that his office did not have an opportunity to assess the proposed percentages. Co-Chair John Torgerson ordered the bill held in committee. He told members that amendments would be distributed by the time of the next hearing on the bill.