Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/12/1995 08:08 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 93 - DISPOSAL OF LAND ALONG THE DALTON HIGHWAY CO-CHAIRMAN JOE GREEN noted at the end of the last hearing on SB 93 there were concerns expressed. He recalled the question was asked if there is anything which can be done in the conveyance for priority use or is that an encumbrance the department cannot convey when conveying to a Native corporation. He wondered if there was any merit in doing that so in the future, if Yukon Pacific came across some land conveyed between now and the time they are ready to take ownership of the land, the construction of a pipeline would not be impeded. RON SWANSON, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF LAND, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES (DNR), replied for any lease the department issues, the department could do that with a stipulation but land conveyed to the borough would be unencumbered land and the department could not do that. He said the desire is the department would deal with that provision before the land is conveyed to the borough and if they would accept it with an encumbrance, that would be fine but he did not suspect they would. REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN asked if the right-of-ways are in place for the natural gas pipeline. MR. SWANSON stated the application is in place but the right-of-way is not in place. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if there is anything in SB 93 which would impede Yukon Pacific's ability to build a pipeline. MR. SWANSON replied no. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN noted for the record that Representative DAVIES had joined the committee. Number 096 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES said he had raised concerns at the last hearing on SB 93 about being realistic. He noted along with opening the Dalton Highway and the opportunities which may be provided, there are responsibilities the state has. He questions how the state's declining revenues are going to cover the costs of providing for those responsibilities. He thought this might be one instance where a toll should be considered and the simplest way to do that is to establish a one-way toll on the E.L. Patton Bridge at the Yukon River. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES noted the Department of Transportation (DOT) has taken time to consider a toll. He said he also discovered that the department does have, in statute, the authority to impose tolls on any highway in the state of Alaska. He stated this is such a unique situation--the costs are large and the difficulty of maintenance with the remoteness of the area are going to be a significant drain on the general fund of the state, especially if some sort of additional revenue source, relating to the operation, is not considered. He said in reviewing DOT's materials, he noted the department has estimated a high cost for implementing a toll. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES made a MOTION to AMEND CSSB 93(RES) on page 1, line 1, after "Highway": insert "and to a toll for use of the bridge across the Yukon River". On page 4, after line 12: insert new bill sections to read: "*Sec. 2. AS 19.40 is amended by adding a new section to read: Sec. 19.40.220. TOLL. The commissioner shall establish by regulation a toll for use of the E.L. Patton Bridge across the Yukon River at the southern terminus of the highway. *Sec. 3. AS 19.40.290 is amended to read: Sec. 19.40.290. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter, (1) "department" means the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities; (2) "highway" means the secondary highway from the southern terminus of the E.L. Patton Bridge across the Yukon River to the Arctic Ocean." Renumber the following bill section accordingly. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN OBJECTED for discussion purposes. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said he is not interested in a toll whose only purpose is to pay for the collection of the toll. He hoped the department could consider an automated means of collecting tolls, which would reduce administrative costs considerably over existing estimates. REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN expressed concern about how the department would handle the proposed toll. He noted the majority use of the highway is commercial use. He wondered if there would be a higher fee for trucks. He also asked if traffic counts had been done to determine usage of the highway and could the costs be determined based on that count. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES replied the department does have traffic counts. He said with an assumption the department would impose a toll based on a linear number based on the number of axles, the estimate is the toll would be $20 for a passenger vehicle and $50 for a truck. CO-CHAIRMAN BILL WILLIAMS asked if the sponsor supports the amendment. TERESA SAGER, LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT, SENATOR MIKE MILLER, PRIME SPONSOR, stated Senator Miller does not support the amendment. He mentioned the impact a toll would have on industry as well as the private traveling public. Senator Miller wanted the committee to consider the impact of allowing the commissioner to establish the toll through regulation and to also consider whether or not this amendment would fit within the title of the bill. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said the amendment would amend the title of the bill. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN noted it had been brought to his attention that an amendment to a bill introduced in the other house is not in order if the amendment requires a change in the title of the bill. SAM KITO, LEGISLATIVE LIAISON, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION & PUBLIC FACILITIES, stated the department already has the statutory authority to put in place regulations for imposing a toll at the bridge or on a highway. He noted the department has reviewed that option extensively and it is something the commissioner may take another look at. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN said his concern is that if the use of the highway is currently commercial and Alyeska has been taking care of activities along the road now, there could be a significant impact if a toll is charged every time Alyeska crosses the bridge. MR. KITO stated that was another issue brought up in the study. He noted the department did sign an agreement with Alyeska that the department will not charge them for the use of the road. He said the department might be able to collect from noncommercial users only. Number 278 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if the department has an estimate on the number of noncommercial users of the road. He wondered if there is enough traffic to offset the costs needed to administer a toll gate. MR. KITO replied in the study the department did, the costs would be taken care of by the toll for the Yukon River Bridge. He said 70 percent of the revenue generated would go to pay for the administrative costs of the program. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN clarified that Alyeska Pipeline and their subcontractors or people servicing the pipeline would not be required to pay a toll. MR. KITO said that is one of the interpretations of the agreement the department has with Alyeska. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN asked what kind of agreement does the department have with Alyeska. He noted the road was put in to service the North Slope and now it is a state road, with the state maintaining it. He asked if the state runs graders up and down the road. MR. KITO explained the road was built with some participation of federal highway funding. He said there was an agreement that when the pipeline was open to service, the road would be turned over to the state and the state would be responsible for maintenance of the road for the term of the usage of the pipeline. He noted an Attorney General Opinion from 1976 reviewed the possibilities of a full closure of the road once the pipeline had been built, and a full opening once the pipeline had been built. The decision was made in 1978 to go with a regulatory restriction on the use of the road. MR. KITO said from 1978 until 1990 the Dalton Highway was a permitted road. He reiterated the state has responsibility for the road and the road has federal funding. He stated as long as the road is open, the state can put federal money into repairing it. He noted the road was legislatively opened to Dietrich camp in 1991 and was only closed from Dietrich camp up to Prudhoe Bay. Number 329 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES clarified the agreement provided that the state not impose a toll on the use of the road. MR. KITO said the toll was not to be assessed against Alyeska Pipeline as a user of the road. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stressed that agreement needs to be honored in any regulations that might be adopted. (Representative NICHOLIA joined the committee.) REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN asked if the Chairman was ruling the amendment out of order. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN said he wanted to get as much discussion on the amendment as possible, so there would be a record of the discussion should the subject come up again. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN clarified that 70 percent of the tolls would be absorbed in administrative costs. He wondered what kind of tolls would be charged. He also questioned how much revenue would be generated above and beyond administrative costs. MR. KITO replied if the toll is only at the bridge, the tolls collected would only service the bridge. He reiterated 70 percent of the tolls collected would go to administrative costs and 30 percent would go to maintenance of the bridge. He added that because of the department's arrangement with the federal highway administration and because of the way the department's regulations are set up, the department would not be able to use any of the toll money for public safety or emergency services until the department fulfilled its requirement to maintain the bridge. He said the same situation would occur with a toll on the highway itself. Number 378 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked what the toll amount would be. MR. KITO replied the recommended toll in the study completed one and one-half years ago was $20 for passenger vehicles and $40-$50 for truck traffic not part of the Alyeska group. REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT stated that depending on the amount of traffic crossing the Yukon River, the toll could increase or decrease. He asked if someone crossed the bridge and went to Old Man versus going up to Prudhoe Bay, would the toll be the same. MR. KITO responded the toll would be the same providing the toll was imposed for the Yukon River Bridge, as the toll would be solely for that facility and not the entire road. Therefore, anyone crossing the bridge would be paying for the use of just the bridge. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked if the receipts generated by the toll would go into the general fund. MR. KITO stated the receipts would go into the general fund and the department would be responsible for administering the toll, which would come out of the departmental budget. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT felt the recommended tolls are too high for crossing a bridge. He said he would much rather see a toll at the Canadian/Alaskan border, thereby capturing every individual coming into the state at a much reduced rate. Number 421 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS felt the committee is discussing something that really cannot be dealt with in the committee. He requested the Chairman to rule the amendment out of order. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN reiterated the reason he was taking input on the amendment was to establish a record. He noted Uniform Rule 24 (d) says the amendment is out of order. He requested the maker of the amendment to withdraw it. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES WITHDREW his MOTION. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN made a MOTION to MOVE HCSSB 93 as amended, with attached fiscal note, out of committee with individual recommendations. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES OBJECTED for the purpose of discussion. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES wondered if the committee would consider a letter of intent requesting the commissioner to continue his consideration of revenue generation as a result of the highway opening. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN said he is a strong believer in user fees but putting the burden of the toll on the individual user rather than on the full use of the road would be inappropriate. He stated if the agreement was not in place allowing industry to be exempt from tolls, he would probably agree with a toll. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES WITHDREW his OBJECTION. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there were any other objections. Hearing none, the MOTION PASSED.