Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/06/2004 02:15 PM Senate TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                                    
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.                                                                                              

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