Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/06/2004 02:15 PM Senate TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 371-POWERS/DUTIES DOTPF CO-CHAIR COWDERY announced SB 371 to be up for consideration. SENATOR THERRIAULT moved to adopt CSSB 371(TRA), version /D. There were no objections and it was so ordered. MR. DOUG LETCH, staff to Senator Gary Stevens, sponsor, explained that the CS deletes page 3, line 22 - page 4, line 8. MS. NONA WILSON, Legislative Liaison, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF), said she would answer questions. She noted a rebuttal statement to Jeffery Parker's letter of March 25 from the department in the committee packets. CO-CHAIR WAGONER said the members could do their own comparisons since they had the documents to go through. MR. BOB DOLL, former director of Southeast Region of DOT, said: It does not seem to me to make for good government to reduce the amount of information that the legislature and the public have in regard to the projects that DOT proposes to undertake. This is, of course, especially true now that the flow of federal transportation money seems to be ever increasing. He said that the legislatures from the previous two terms wanted the benefits of an analysis to consider the projects in that period of time. He asked the committee to consider what the elimination of it would accomplish. DOTPF can conduct whatever kind of analysis it wants; it is capable of publishing regulations that would address most of its concerns. He thought that a cost benefit analysis was a reasonable exercise of the legislative oversight process over the Department of Transportation and how its funds are spent. It provides data regarding proposed projects that can be obtained in no other way and does not put an unreasonable burden on the department. TAPE 04-16, SIDE B MR. JEFF PARKER, plaintiff's counsel, in Trout Unlimited and Bob Gillam versus Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF), had four concerns: First, the bill should at least state the name of the court case correctly, which it doesn't do. Second, section 1 is directed towards the injunction issued in January, which will probably only remain in effect until July 2004, because that is the date which the DOT has told the court when it would complete the cost benefit analysis pursuant to the court order. Nothing would be gained by overturning the injunction. What would be lost is the information available to the legislature that should address whether or not the project is cost effective for purposes of budgeting. Thirdly, this bill is eliminating the only objective criteria in state statute for determining whether one project or another is more worthy. Without those criteria, I would like you to put on record how those prioritization decisions would be made. Fourthly, the draft Valdez Regional Transportation Plan that was released January 5 shows $1.2 billion in the out years in new road projects. The Southwest region has a $379 million King Salmon to Chignik Road. Another $100 million is proposed for new roads from Williams Port to Iliamna, plus South Central has the Knik River Bridge proposal, which has funds earmarked. He estimated $2 billion to $3 billion in road projects in the next 20 years or about $150 million per year. Current federal funding is about $305 million per year and the cost benefits pencil out very unfavorably. CO-CHAIR WAGONER interrupted to point out that a lot of the projects he is alluding to don't have a lot to do with this project. MR. PARKER said he was trying to explain why repealing a cost benefit analysis is detrimental to good decisions making. MS. WILSON referred Mr. Parker to the DOT letter of rebuttal, a section of which she highlighted: DOT agrees that the consideration of both costs and benefits is useful and indeed appropriate for many, but not all projects. What we consider inappropriate isn't being mandatory on every new project regardless of type, size or urgency. I would also point out that cost and benefit consideration is used routinely during project design even though it's not required by state law. [In] AS 44.42.050 it's required for project selection, but not during project design. But we still do it. The key point is that CB [cost benefit] analysis should be used where it's meaningful and not universally. CO-CHAIR WAGONER said that's why the department doesn't object to it being taken out of the statute. MS. DEE ESSERT, Sand Lake CC, opposed SB 371. She said the cost of Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) projects has escalated because engineers and project managers fail to consider hidden costs of environmental impacts and other problems. The Knowles Coastal Trail south extension has increased from $12 million to $37 million. A recent cost estimate was $80 million considering legal costs. The legislature needs to shape the planning process by adding statutes with objective criteria to the planning process. MS. WILSON said that a required cost benefit analysis would interfere with every project that DOT is running, including those in construction phase, like the Soldotna Bridge project, which has been completely halted. CO-CHAIR COWDERY moved to pass CSSB 371(TRA) from committee with individual recommendations and asked for unanimous consent. There were no objections and it was so ordered. There being no further business to come before the committee, Co-Chair Wagoner adjourned the meeting at 3:20 p.m.