Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/22/1999 09:07 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                                             
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                                                                             
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                                                                               
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                                                                            
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                                                                      
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                                                                          
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                                                                             
Senator Gary Wilken wanted to know the percentage                                                                               
allocation for the six categories in the past for                                                                               
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                                                                     
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.                                                                                           

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