Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

04/08/2010 01:00 PM TRANSPORTATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSSB 152(TRA) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 366(JUD) Out of Committee
Moved HJR 47 Out of Committee
            SB 152-TRANSPORTATION; TRANSIT AUTHORITIES                                                                      
1:01:39 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KOOKESH announced  the consideration of SB  152. The bill                                                               
was heard previously.                                                                                                           
JODIE  SIMSON, Staff  to Senator  Charlie  Huggins, informed  the                                                               
committee   that  a   representative  from   the  Department   of                                                               
Transportation  and Public  Facilities  (DOTPF)  was present  and                                                               
representatives from the Municipality  of Anchorage and the MatSu                                                               
Borough were online to respond to questions and concerns.                                                                       
1:02:35 PM                                                                                                                    
JEFFERY C.  OTTESEN, Director,  Division of  Program Development,                                                               
Department  of  Transportation  and  Public  Facilities  (DOTPF),                                                               
stated that  the fundamental  reason that DOTPF  has not  taken a                                                               
position on the  legislation is that the bill  doesn't identify a                                                               
role for DOTPF  in either the formative stages  or the operations                                                               
of a regional transit authority (RTA).                                                                                          
MR. OTTESEN  said DOTPF  believes that it  should be  involved in                                                               
any future  RTA, and that there  is also a need  for metropolitan                                                               
planning  organizations  (MPO)  -   the  planning  authority  for                                                               
transportation   funding  from   the   federal  government.   Any                                                               
community  with  a population  of  50,000  that meets  a  certain                                                               
density standard  becomes an MPO, he  said. There are two  in the                                                               
state  - the  Anchorage Metropolitan  Area Transportation  System                                                               
(AMATS)  and  the   Fairbanks  Metropolitan  Area  Transportation                                                               
System (FMATS).  It's likely  that Mat-Su  will become  one after                                                               
the 2010 census is calculated, he added.                                                                                        
MR. OTTESEN informed the committee  that RTAs often span multiple                                                               
local  government  boundaries. An  RTA  is  likely to  be  partly                                                               
within an MPO and partly outside  and thus dealing with the state                                                               
for funding  decisions. He explained  that RTAs may  include rail                                                               
and light rail transit and  almost certainly rubber-tire transit.                                                               
Even  when the  primary goal  is  to build  a rail-based  system,                                                               
rubber-tire  transit  is  necessary   to  bring  people  in  from                                                               
outlying  areas to  the  rail  system. There's  a  great deal  of                                                               
overlap and DOTPF needs to  be included in operational agreements                                                               
with respect  to operating on rights-of-way,  building bus stops,                                                               
building  park-and-rides, and  signal  preemption  to give  buses                                                               
priority. He  noted that  buses already  get priority  at traffic                                                               
lights in Anchorage.                                                                                                            
He described  Sound Transit in  Seattle as  one of the  newer and                                                               
more innovative  RTAs in the  nation. It is doing  commuter rail,                                                               
light  rail,  and has  several  rubber-tire  transit routes.  The                                                               
Washington state  transportation department  saw an  obvious need                                                               
to be a  part of that RTA and it  has a commissioner-level voting                                                               
member on that transit board.                                                                                                   
1:06:33 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. OTTESEN  explained to the  committee that  if an RTA  were to                                                               
straddle  a borough  and the  unorganized  borough, DOTPF's  role                                                               
might  be useful  because the  unorganized borough  has no  local                                                               
government at  the borough level.  In that case,  the Legislature                                                               
would act as the borough assembly  and the state would act as the                                                               
local  government. He  cited a  potential RTA  in Fairbanks  with                                                               
routes to Delta  Junction or Nenana as an example.  These are the                                                               
reasons for  the need for  both MPOs and DOTs  to have a  role in                                                               
RTAs, he said. Whether it's permissive  or mandatory is up to the                                                               
Legislature, but it ought to at least be allowed.                                                                               
SENATOR KOOKESH observed that that isn't part of this bill.                                                                     
MR. OTTESEN  agreed the bill  is silent  on that point,  which in                                                               
the future would lead to a question about the intent.                                                                           
CHAIR KOOKESH  asked DOTPF's  position on  the bill  as currently                                                               
MR. OTTESEN  replied DOTPF believes  that RTAs are  necessary and                                                               
appropriate in Alaska.                                                                                                          
CHAIR KOOKESH asked if DOTPF believes that this is a first step.                                                                
MR. OTTESEN said yes  and it would be better if  the role of MPOs                                                               
and DOTPF were clarified in the formation of the RTA.                                                                           
1:08:48 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS  asked if  he brought an  amendment or  language to                                                               
clarify the role of DOTPF.                                                                                                      
MR. OTTESEN offered to provide  language. Responding to a further                                                               
question, he  said he prefers to  have the intent clear  from the                                                               
SENATOR MENARD asked if he  is suggesting that someone from DOTPF                                                               
should be on the RTA board.                                                                                                     
MR.  OTTESEN replied  it's probably  appropriate  for each  DOTPF                                                               
regional director to be in that role.                                                                                           
SENATOR MENARD asked him to clarify the priority issue.                                                                         
MR.  OTTESEN explained  that bus  prioritization  works much  the                                                               
same as it does for  emergency vehicles. Priority is always given                                                               
to  the  emergency vehicle  at  intersections  while priority  is                                                               
given to a bus  if it is full. If the bus is  empty, it would not                                                               
receive priority.                                                                                                               
1:11:47 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MENARD  mentioned  the   stimulus  money  and  said  she                                                               
supports the bill.                                                                                                              
MR. OTTESEN  said there will be  additional money and most  of it will                                                          
run  through  the  MPO  or  state DOT.  That's  why  RTAs  want  those                                                          
representatives on  their board,  he said. At  the federal  level MPOs                                                          
are the  planning authority. The best  example in Alaska is  AMATS and                                                          
the Knik  Arm Bridge and  Toll Authority  (KABATA) Board, he  said. He                                                          
related that KABATA was established  by the Legislature, yet the AMATS                                                          
MPO is  driving whether or  not that project proceeds.  Recently there                                                          
was a vote to potentially shut that project down for a decade and                                                               
although that didn't happen, the message is that MPOs and other                                                                 
regional transportation organizations need to collaborate.                                                                      
1:14:12 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR PASKVAN  asked if he is  saying that the bill  is a first                                                               
step, but that DOTPF needs to be involved at some point in time.                                                                
MR.  OTTESEN replied  it's  appropriate because  of  the way  the                                                               
federal funding works  and it would increase the  likelihood of a                                                               
successful RTA.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  PASKVAN  asked  if  a   conceptual  amendment  would  be                                                               
appropriate that  says, "A regional transit  authority created in                                                               
this section may participate with a RTA created by this act."                                                                   
MR. OTTESEN agreed that permissive  language would be fine. DOTPF                                                               
controls the funding strings to a  degree so there is impetus for                                                               
having it at the table.                                                                                                         
MR.  OTTESEN suggested  the amendment  language  also include  "a                                                               
representative   from   any  coincident   metropolitan   planning                                                               
organization."  He noted  that the  draft transportation  bill in                                                               
Congress sends money  directly to the MPOs so it  would no longer                                                               
run through the state DOT or be appropriated by the Legislature.                                                                
1:17:03 PM                                                                                                                    
BRAD  SWORTS, Transportation  and  Environmental Manager,  Mat-Su                                                               
Borough,   stated   support   for   creating   regional   transit                                                               
authorities.  He related  that  Mat-Su Borough  has been  working                                                               
closely  with the  Municipality of  Anchorage on  the matter.  He                                                               
related that  transit operations  within the borough  and between                                                               
the   borough   and   Anchorage  continue   to   increase.   It's                                                               
increasingly  clear  that  the  management  and  coordination  of                                                               
improved  transit operations  should  be carried  out through  an                                                               
RTA,  he said.  Municipalities  and communities  in Alaska  would                                                               
benefit from passage of SB 152.                                                                                                 
JODY  KARCZ,  Public  Transportation  Director,  Municipality  of                                                               
Anchorage (MOA),  pointed out  that when  the Mat-Su  Borough and                                                               
the  MOA began  talking about  the process  to establish  an RTA,                                                               
DOTPF was  brought to the table  and it continues to  be a strong                                                               
Referring to the "Opticom" transit  priority bus project that Mr.                                                               
Ottesen  mentioned, she  explained  that  the municipal  assembly                                                               
approved a one-year pilot program for  two bus routes. Just 20 of                                                               
the 217 traffic  signals within Anchorage are  equipped to accept                                                               
bus priority during  peak hours in peak directions,  she said. So                                                               
far there has been minimal impact on cross streets.                                                                             
1:21:32 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN asked  if she  would have  any problem  with the                                                               
conceptual   amendment   to    include   DOTPF   and   coincident                                                               
metropolitan  planning organizations  in the  RTA created  by the                                                               
MS. KARCZ replied it's a good amendment.                                                                                        
SENATOR MENARD  said she would  like the language to  say "shall"                                                               
instead of "may" to ensure that DOTPF is included.                                                                              
CHAIR KOOKESH clarified that this is a conceptual amendment.                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  said he  has  no  problem  with that  if  DOTPF                                                               
1:22:52 PM                                                                                                                    
RALPH  DUERRE,  Assistant  Attorney,  Municipality  of  Anchorage                                                               
(MOA), said  MOA supports the  conceptual amendment  that Senator                                                               
Paskvan proposed. He  related that SB 152 is flexible  to allow a                                                               
variety of transportation plans. There  is no question that DOTPF                                                               
and  MPOs will  play vital  role in  the success  of the  RTA and                                                               
their  participation  is most  welcome.  However,  DOTPF and  MPO                                                               
participation should be on a permissive basis.                                                                                  
SENATOR KOOKESH closed public testimony.                                                                                        
1:25:46 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  moved  conceptual  Amendment 1  to  add  a  new                                                               
section (b)(3) to read as follows:                                                                                              
     The Department of  Transportation and Public Facilities                                                                    
     may   participate   and/or   a  representative   of   a                                                                    
     coincident   metropolitan  planning   organization  may                                                                    
     participate with  a regional transit  authority created                                                                    
     by this Act.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  MENARD objected  to the  word  "may" because  it is  too                                                               
CHAIR KOOKESH asked Mr. Ottesen to provide his perspective.                                                                     
MR. OTTESEN stated a preference for the permissive language.                                                                    
SENATOR KOOKESH agreed with that position.                                                                                      
1:28:01 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MENARD removed her objection.                                                                                           
CHAIR  KOOKESH  found no  further  objection  and announced  that                                                               
conceptual  Amendment 1  was adopted.  He asked  the will  of the                                                               
1:28:28 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR PASKVAN moved to report  SB 152, as conceptually amended,                                                               
from  committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  attached                                                               
fiscal  note(s). There  being no  objection, CSSB  152(TRA) moved                                                               
from the Senate Transportation Standing Committee.                                                                              

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