Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 17

03/25/2010 01:00 PM TRANSPORTATION


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= HB 267 SNOW MACHINE USE IN DALTON HWY CORRIDOR TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 267(TRA) Out of Committee
*+ HB 313 MAINTENANCE OF RAILROAD CROSSINGS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
            HOUSE TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                         March 25, 2010                                                                                         
                           1:08 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Representative Peggy Wilson, Chair                                                                                              
Representative Craig Johnson, Vice Chair                                                                                        
Representative Cathy Engstrom Munoz                                                                                             
Representative Tammie Wilson                                                                                                    
Representative Pete Petersen                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative Kyle Johansen                                                                                                    
Representative Max Gruenberg                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 313                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to the maintenance and repair of railroad                                                                      
crossings and rights-of-way within railroad crossings."                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 267                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to travel by snow machine within five miles of                                                                 
the right-of-way of the James Dalton Highway."                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     - MOVED CSHB 267(TRA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 313                                                                                                                    
SHORT TITLE: MAINTENANCE OF RAILROAD CROSSINGS                                                                                  
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) STOLTZE                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
01/25/10 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                                    

01/25/10 (H) TRA, FIN 03/25/10 (H) TRA AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 17 BILL: HB 267 SHORT TITLE: SNOW MACHINE USE IN DALTON HWY CORRIDOR SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) KELLY, NEUMAN

01/08/10 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 1/8/10

01/19/10 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS

01/19/10 (H) TRA, RES 03/11/10 (H) TRA AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 17 03/11/10 (H) Heard & Held 03/11/10 (H) MINUTE(TRA) 03/16/10 (H) TRA AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 17 03/16/10 (H) Heard & Held; Assigned to Subcommittee 03/16/10 (H) MINUTE(TRA) 03/17/10 (H) TRA AT 11:30 AM CAPITOL 17 03/17/10 (H) -- Public Testimony -- 03/22/10 (H) TRA AT 5:30 PM CAPITOL 17 03/22/10 (H) -- No Public Testimony -- 03/25/10 (H) TRA AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 17 WITNESS REGISTER JAMES ARMSTRONG, Staff Representative Bill Stoltze Alaska State Legislature Juneau, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on behalf of the prime sponsor, Representative Bill Stoltze, prime sponsor of HB 313. FRANK RICHARDS, Deputy Commissioner Office of the Commissioner Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) Juneau, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified and answered questions during the discussion of HB 313. TOM BROOKS, Vice-President of Engineering Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) Anchorage, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified during the discussion of HB 313. DOUG ISSACSON, Mayor City of North Pole North Pole, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified during the discussion of HB 313. BONNIE WOLSTAD North Pole POSITION STATEMENT: Testified during the discussion of HB 313. REBECCA ROONEY, Staff Representative P. Wilson Alaska State Legislature Juneau, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Presented the changes in the proposed committee substitute for HB 267 on behalf of Representative P. Wilson, Chair of the House Transportation Standing Committee. MARY SIROKY, Legislative Liaison Office of the Commissioner Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) Juneau, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Testified and answered questions during the discussion of HB 267 ACTION NARRATIVE 1:08:18 PM CHAIR PEGGY WILSON called the House Transportation Standing Committee meeting to order at 1:08 p.m. Representatives P. Wilson, Petersen, Johnson, and T. Wilson, and were present at the call to order. Representative Munoz arrived as the meeting was in progress. 1:09:05 PM HB 313-MAINTENANCE OF RAILROAD CROSSINGS 1:09:15 PM CHAIR P. WILSON announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 313, "An Act relating to the maintenance and repair of railroad crossings and rights-of-way within railroad crossings." 1:09:27 PM JAMES ARMSTRONG, Staff, Representative Bill Stoltze, Alaska State Legislature, on behalf of the prime sponsor, stated that HB 313 is a policy call to determine who should pay for the maintenance on railroad crossings that are bisected by roads. The bill would transfer an equitable share of the liability for annual costs of maintenance and repairs at state highway/railroad intersections of the Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC). He referred to a chart labeled "DOT&PF Railroad Crossing Maintenance Cost" in members' packets that outlines crossing fee maintenance costs. In FY 2005, the fees for maintenance costs were $92,000 and since then have doubled to over $207,000 annually in the Northern and Central Regions. The state DOT&PF currently pays $266 per month per crossing, which totals $212,000 annually. Additionally, the DOT&PF incurs other maintenance and operation (M&O) fees. The intent of HB 313 is that the ARRC would use its federal transit funding for operations and more equitably distribute the maintenance costs at railroad and road intersections. The state has scarce general funds (GF) available, but the ARRC is a "for profit" entity and could likely pass though the maintenance costs to its customers. 1:12:05 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked whether municipalities also pay crossing fees at railroad and road intersections. MR. ARMSTRONG offered his belief that municipalities also remit fees. He recalled that the City of North Pole remits crossing fees. He deferred to the ARRC to further address the crossing fees. 1:13:03 PM FRANK RICHARDS, Deputy Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT/PF), related that Mr. Armstrong accurately noted the crossing fees. He reiterated the crossing maintenance fees are $266 per crossing per month, which totals $121,287 for annual fees on the 38 crossings. These fees represent ongoing annual fees, which are not addressed in this bill. Additionally, the ARRC bills the DOT&PF for M&O costs above and beyond the crossing fees. The fees represent the ARRC billing for labor, equipment, and commodity costs incurred by the railroad to maintain the crossings. He referred to the chart Mr. Armstrong mentioned. He pointed out the larger maintenance/upgrade projects listed, including the Hurricane and South Denali Crossing in FY 05 billing of $348,266, and the University Avenue Crossing billing of $156,808, plus labor, contract, and materials costs. 1:14:57 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked for clarification on the $266 fee. MR. RICHARDS answered that the charge is for services provided by the ARRC, but does not cover maintenance fees. 1:15:25 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked for clarification on the maintenance costs. MR. RICHARDS explained that when the ARRC determines that work is needed on railroad crossings on a DOT&PF roadway, the DOT&PF is charged for the services provided. The work includes maintenance on rail, ballast, and approaches to ensure safety. In further response to Representative Johnson, he said he is not privy to the ARRC's rates. His team's expertise is limited to asphalt and roadway issues, not rail safety issues, he stated. MR. RICHARDS, in response to Representative T Wilson, stated that the DOT&PF does not have a position on HB 313. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN said he would like to know the reason for the bill. 1:18:04 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON understood the DOT&PF is charged ARRC fees. She asked if the ARRC also bills the City of North Pole for its crossings. TOM BROOKS, Vice-President of Engineering, Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC), provided a history of railroad grade crossings. He explained that the railroad originally had a 100 foot right-of-way each side of the railroad. As the state grew, residents asked the railroad for permission to build roads across the railroad. During federal ownership and subsequently, after the railroad was transferred to the state, the railroad worked to accommodate that usage whenever possible. The terms of the agreements included that the railroad would allow the roadway to cross the railroad with no charge for the right-of- way, but the road owner had to absorb any costs associated with the crossing. Several types of costs are incurred with railroad crossings. One cost is the basic maintenance cost, in which a signal exists to warn motorists of oncoming train traffic and gates are lowered. Those crossings are heavily regulated and require regular inspections. Thus, the maintenance fees are $266 per month for basic maintenance service. The railroad staff, the signal maintainer, spends about four hours per month to ensure each signal is working properly. If any trouble or malfunction is discovered, the owner is charged for repairs to the signal. Thus, the City of North Pole or Municipality of Anchorage is billed for any signal crossings plus fees for trouble calls. 1:21:27 PM MR. BROOKS related another cost associated with crossings is to repair or rebuild the railroad crossing. Periodically, approximately every 15 to 25 years, the crossing surface becomes degraded. The ARRC cannot maintain the crossing in the same way it would maintain the railroad if the roadway did not exist. Normally, the ARRC finds that the life of the rail runs approximately 40 to 50 years life for components, but that timeframe is reduced to approximately 15 to 25 years on crossings. When the crossing is degraded, the ARRC "rips out the roadway, closes the highway, and performs intensive effort and cooperates with DOT&PF on paving. The ARRC prefers the DOT&PF to perform the paving work on any approaches. He stated that about every 15-25 years a fairly large cost is associated with this effort. Additionally, the DOT&PF works to time the rail rebuild with planned DOT&PF road projects. Thus, when the railroad performs the work in conjunction with a major highway upgrade, the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) includes the crossing rebuild as part of the cost of the project. Mr. Richards mentioned several railroad projects needed replacement but were not associated with any highway project so the ARRC billed the DOT&PF for the work. 1:23:32 PM MR. BROOKS pointed out another class of cost is for the signal systems. He explained that the lights and gates upgrades on crossings are typically covered by the FHWA Safety Improvement Program. MR. BROOKS, in response to Chair P. Wilson, stated that the FHWA sends auditors and determine allowable costs and the ARRC bills accordingly. 1:25:04 PM MR. BROOKS explained that the most costly crossing are ones in which either the highway or the railroad results in an overpass, which are grade separations that can cost from $3 to $30 million to build. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds are associated with passenger service but cannot be used for this type of work. He offered that under HB 313, the funds would come from the operating side of the ARRC so it would be difficult for the ARC to absorb the crossing maintenance costs. In response to Chair P. Wilson, he explained that the FTA funds are formula funds used to perform passenger related improvements, such as new track or coaches. 1:28:09 PM MR. BROOKS related that the basic question the ARRC has with the bill are which costs are intended to be included. He stated that the ARRC would not want the Highway Safety Improvement Funding to be disrupted for signal upgrades. He offered that the ARRC has been successful in reducing the number of crossing deaths. Six people were killed in 1990s. The ARRC upgraded crossings with HSIP funds, such as adding gate arms at crossings, which has resulted in significantly increased safety. 1:29:12 PM CHAIR P. WILSON asked for an explanation of any funds earmarked for crossings. MR. RICHARDS explained that the FHWA grants Alaska formula funds for the National Highway Program, the Community Transportation Program, the Bridge Program, and the Highway Safety Improvement Program. Many projects address safety issues. Mr. Brooks restated the six fatalities on the railroad in the 1990s as an example. The DOT&PF gathers information on roadways and attempts to address the safety needs on roads and crossings. Projects are ranked and the funding is distributed via the Highway Safety Improvement Program to address the needs. The most costly and expensive process to a highway crossing is building an overpass, which usually costs in excess of $10 million. 1:31:52 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON asked whether an agreement is reached prior to placing a crossing. She mentioned that in her community a new subdivision is being build and will need a road crossing the railroad. MR. BROOKS recalled when the City of Wasilla built a new sports center in an area across the railroad tracks at the intersection of the Parks Highway and Church Road. The ARRC looked for an alternate way to access the building and signed an agreement with the City of Wasilla to cross the right-of-way. No fee was charged for access, but the City of Wasilla must pay for all costs associated with the crossing, including signal maintenance checks. Thus, the ARRC bills the City of Wasilla $266 per month for maintenance costs for the crossing, he stated. 1:33:29 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked whether municipalities have federal funds available to pay for railroad crossings. MR. BROOKS stated that he was unaware of any other funds available. He recalled a crossing that needed rebuilding in the Interior. The City of North Pole and ARRC reached an agreement and rebuilt the crossing. He explained that the cost resulted in an $8,000 annual fee for the crossing, which was spread out over 20 years. 1:34:34 PM MR. ARMSTRONG, in response to Chair P. Wilson, related that the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solution (AMATS) receives a "separate pot" of funds from the HSIP. He explained that one DOT&PF coordinator has statewide responsibility for the funds. He said he did not recall whether a formula exists to cover crossings within the AMATS boundaries. CHAIR P. WILSON asked if the Municipality of Anchorage or City of Fairbanks requests its funding for crossings from DOT&PF. MR. ARMSTRONG suggested that the AMATS or Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (FMATS) coordinators would request the funds for crossings from the HSIP fund. He related that it would be up to the coordinator to place the project in their respective Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPS). MR. RICHARDS related that Mr. Armstrong was describing the normal capital project process, in which the ARRC would identify for the community ahead of time the costs to upgrade or repair the crossing, which can become part of the AMATS or FMATS. The greater challenge happens when the cost for upgrades "hits the operating budget" and the DOT&PF must pay Alaska Railroad Corporation, he stated. 1:37:45 PM MR. RICHARDS, in response to Chair P. Wilson, explained that the at-grade and grade separated crossings are predominately funded with HSIP funds. He related that the needs in the safety arena, for crosswalks, intersections, and grade challenges, far exceed the federal funding for that category. He stated that the DOT&PF always has more needs for projects on an annual basis and cannot set aside an amount. He offered that the DOT&PF has a contractual obligation to obligate funds that are ready for construction. 1:39:00 PM MR. ARMSTRONG, in response to Representative T. Wilson, explained that the bill would shift the responsibility of the maintenance cost from the DOT&PF to the ARRC. In further response to Representative T. Wilson, he explained that costs that would be shifted are limited to maintenance costs at crossings. CHAIR P. WILSON remarked that if the ARRC is required to absorb the responsibility that it might raise the $266 monthly maintenance fees. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked when the last time the $266 was adjusted. MR. BROOKS answered that the fee was raised in the mid-80s based on the ARRC's analysis of the maintenance costs. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN offered his belief that the costs would likely be reviewed if the bill were to pass. MR. BROOKS answered yes, that the ARRC board is interested. He was uncertain what would be included in "maintenance" and if it would apply to rebuilds or crossing fees since it could have a wide fiscal impact. 1:41:53 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON asked whether the bill would require the ARRC to only take on the $266 fee. MR. ARMSTRONG answered no, that fee would stay in place. The maintenance and operations costs (M&O) costs for maintenance and repair of railroad crossings and rights-of-way within railroad crossings would be shifted to the ARRC. MR. RICHARDS, in response to Representative T. Wilson, clarified that the bill would address the costs listed in the M&O Costs column of the members' handout. The costs represent the fees charged by the ARRC for work they are performing on the crossing of the road and some features on the rail adjacent to that crossing. MR. BROOKS explained that the fees almost exclusively relate to the crossing signal. He explained the types of costs would include damage to the crossing, such as when someone drives through the crossing arm and the ARRC cannot identify the driver or vehicle, but the crossing arm must be replaced. The ARRC does not charge for snow removal or track maintenance. Most of the costs are related to the signal systems, he stated. The DOT&PF has responsibility for about 36 of the 80 signalized crossings in Alaska. A number of the other crossings are located in municipalities, the military, the U.S. Park Service, and the Usibelli Coal mine and they all receive standard billings. 1:44:18 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked for an explanation of the maintenance crossing fee. MR. BROOKS explained that the federal law requires the ARRC to perform monthly maintenance inspections. 1:45:01 PM CHAIR P. WILSON commented that if the bill passes, other entities may ask the ARRC to absorb the costs, such as the military and the municipalities since only 38 crossings are DOT&PF crossings. MR. BROOKS answered he believed that DOT&PF has responsibility for 36 crossings. 1:45:39 PM MR. BROOKS, in response to Representative Johnson, explained that the ARRC Board's policy on new crossings is to determine if a reasonable alternative exists, but if it meets the criteria of a safe crossing, the ARRC will permit the crossing. In further response to Representative Johnson, he offered that if HB 357 passes the ARRC would be more resistant to add new crossings due to the financial burden. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON recalled from earlier testimony that major upgrades are funded from the operating budget. He asked what types of projects would be funded from the GF. MR. RICHARDS referred to the bottom of page 1, to the DOT&PF's handout, labeled "Railroad Crossing Maintenance Cost." He stated the projects, such as Hurricane and South Denali Crossings (FY 05) would include the type of projects that would be funded from GF funds. In response to Representative Johnson, he explained that the project would be under contractual obligations and normally is expended in the operating budget. 1:47:50 PM MR. RICHARDS offered the challenge for DOT&PF is that the ARRC will identify a crossing upgrade need but the billing is remitted to the DOT&PF after the project is completed. It is difficult to request a capital appropriation for a prior expenditure, he said. MR. RICHARDS, in response to Representative Johnson, stated the funds used are funds that are reappropriated from other capital projects as well as other funds. He explained that sometimes it takes several years to repay the expenses. Thus, a combination of reappropriation and year-end funds pay the expenses for crossing upgrades. 1:49:05 PM CHAIR P. WILSON asked whether the $1.3 million cost for the projects listed was spread over several years. MR. RICHARDS answered yes. He recapped that the ARRC billed the DOT&PF, but it took several years for the DOT&PF to find funding sources. Ultimately, the DOT&PF paid the crossing bill by using reappropriations and year-end savings. 1:49:47 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON asked whether the ARRC provides an estimate of the costs prior to the work being done. MR. RICHARDS replied that typically the ARRC submits a billing. MR. BROOKS explained the process. He stated that the ARRC examines crossings and provides the DOT&PF as much lead time as possible, sometimes several years' notice on rebuilds. He assured members that the DOT&PF works to find funding sources, either from the general funds or federal funds for the work. At some point before the tracks become impassable, even when the funds are not available, the ARRC must move forward with the project. In those instances, the ARRC will initially bear the costs of the crossing. The ARRC expects the DOT&PF to reimburse the corporation for costs in accordance with the formula. He pointed out an instance in which the ARRC exceeded its estimate of $285,000 at the Hurricane and South Denali Crossings. When the DOT&PF pointed out the discrepancy between the estimate and the actual cost, the ARRC ate the difference." 1:51:44 PM MR. ARMSTRONG recalled that the DOT&PF contractual funds will sometimes lapse. He anticipated that may happen this year and if it does the DOT&PF would likely go into the sub-component of the allocation account to pay the ARRC. MR. RICHARDS disagreed. He did not believe the DOT&PF's contractual funds will lapse this year, although he acknowledged that it depends on the legislature's action on the DOT&PF's supplemental request. 1:52:39 PM MR. BROOKS, in response to Chair P. Wilson, stated that the crossings that will need work are part of a group of crossings built in the mid-80s and have come due again. He stated that the ARRC will continue to build crossings on an ongoing basis. 1:53:27 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked for the ARRC's profit margin with the DOT&PF. MR. BROOKS answered that the auditors establish a rate 60 to 70 percent plus the raw cost. MR. BROOKS, in response to Representative Johnson, explained that on a job that cost $100,000 that the DOT&PF would pay $160,000. 1:54:25 PM CHAIR P. WILSON asked how long the agreement has been in effect. MR. BROOKS related that the right-of-way agreement has been in effect since the 1940s. In further response to Chair P. Wilson, he explained that the auditors establish an annual reimbursement rate. CHAIR P. WILSON remarked that she thinks the DOT&PF is paying too much. She asked who does the work. MR. BROOKS responded that generally it is ARRC employees, but sometimes the work is contracted out. In further response to Chair P. Wilson, he explained that the ARRC bills direct cost for labor, plus a percentage for costs associated. He said, "What you are asking is what audit standards DOT&PF uses and I don't know the details on those." 1:57:05 PM MR. RICHARDS, in response to Chair P. Wilson, offered to have the internal auditor present the information on the DOT&PF audit determinations in terms of the allowable expense. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN stated that when a contractor charges $50 per hour, that the contractor may pay the helper $18 per hour. The additional charges cover the contractor's overhead, including maintenance, unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation insurance. He acknowledged that "cost plus 60" sounds pretty good. MR. ARMSTRONG agreed that defining "maintenance" is something that other legislators are struggling to identify in the Governor's budget. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON offered his belief that "cost plus 60 percent" seemed high. MR. RICHARDS described the internal auditor process. The DOT&PF accepts federal dollars and accepts the responsibility for the federal funding. The DOT&PF has a team of internal auditors to review fees and contracts that fits within the federal Office of Management and Budget requirements. The team of auditors reviews contractors, design consultants, and contractual obligations. Normally, the DOT&PF personal services includes the base rate, overhead, leave, insurance, and small profit margin. He said he was uncertain what the ARRC rate includes, but when DOT&PF considers whether to perform work internally or by contract, the overhead rate is 70 percent. Thus, a person who is paid $10 per hour is charged out at $16.27 per hour, he stated. 2:02:07 PM MR. RICHARDS, in response to Representative T. Wilson, related that the DOT&PF has an agreement for the monthly crossing fee of $266, plus maintenance costs billed. At times, like the estimated cost for the Hurricane and South Denali Crossings (FY05) the DOT&PF rejected the higher billing of $348,266. In further response to Representative T. Wilson, he related that the ARRC's practice is to provide estimates and some of the costs are higher since the ARRC sometimes contracts out the work. The contract costs are higher, he commented. CHAIR P. WILSON said she did not understand the higher costs. MR. BROOKS, in response to Representative Johnson, explained that the $348,170 includes the indirect costs. 2:05:01 PM The committee took an at-ease from 2:05 p.m. to 2:06 p.m. 2:06:12 PM DOUG ISSACSON, Mayor, City of North Pole, stated that the City of North Pole is a small community and entered into a contract with the ARRC with several misunderstandings. He became Mayor in 2006. The City of North Pole had two unregulated and dangerous crossings. He detailed the specific crossing issues and problems to address the congested traffic to the high school. The ARRC's solution was to shut down one crossing, which he disagreed with and believes the closure has increased the safety concerns. He seeks to obtain realignment funds to move the railroad away from the highway system. 2:10:25 PM MR. ISSACSON related his understanding that the community of Wasilla is paying less than $3,200 per year for its crossing, based on $266 per month fee, while a community that is 10 times smaller is charged $8,000 annually for its crossing. He stressed the safety issues and economic issues related to the nearby refinery as reasons the ARRC should pay for safe public transit at the crossing. Instead of encouraging development, the ARRC shut down half of the crossings and will not allow additional development, he stated. He detailed a problem that occurred with a school bus on the railroad crossing. He objected to the closings of crossings that run through homesteads in North Pole, which predated the Alaska Railroad. He pointed out the City of North Pole passed a resolution and transmitted a letter that articulated its arguments. He offered his support for HB 313. He suggested members amend the bill so the maintenance fees do not apply to the North Pole and other small communities. He would like equitable solutions and believes unreasonable profit margins are built into the ARRC's crossing fees. 2:15:05 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked what led to the closure of crossings. MR. ISSACSON recalled the ARRC shut down the crossings to reduce liability at the crossing. 2:16:57 PM MR. ISSACSON, in response to Representative Munoz, answered yes. The City of North Pole would like to develop properties and have economic diversification. MR. ISSACSON, in response to Chair P. Wilson, explained that the crossing fees contain egregious numbers and he will not budget for the crossing, which the City Council affirmed. He brought this matter to the attention of the President and CEO of the ARRC, Pat Gamble. He would like the ARRC to review this in lieu of the low fees other communities are paying. He said, "In many ways, I feel we have been overcharged." 2:18:29 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked whether the community had been consulted before the at-grade closures occurred. MR. ISSACSON stated that the City of North Pole was not consulted for all at-grade closures although he recognized that some crossings fall outside the actual city boundary. He specified that with respect to the Ruby crossing, that the City of North Pole offered to replace wooden planks, but the ARRC said it would be unsafe for trains, although wooden planks have been in place for the past 50 years. The only option the City of North Pole had available to them was an "expensive fix." He characterized the ARRC's method of consulting as "dictatorial." 2:19:43 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON asked for the amount of the cost. MR. ISSACSON explained that the crossing was near the easement, from Peridot Street to Homestead Road and the estimated cost ranged from $80,000 to $120,000 to repair the crossing. 2:20:56 PM BONNIE WOLSTAD stated that the homestead was filed for in 1946. In response to Chair Wilson, she stated she was asked to permit the crossing. The railroad cuts a diagonal line through the homestead. At the Parkway crossing the road was closed and the ARRC dug out the crossing. Another crossing nearby remained open, she said. On the other side of the homestead, the crossing at the section line at Peridot Street and Homestead Road is known as the Ruby Crossing. In 2003, the railroad moved to close the Ruby crossing. She said, "We have never paid the permit fee." In 2003, the process started, with notice that hearings would be held. 2:23:31 PM CHAIR P. WILSON asked how far away from the crossing is her home located. MS. WOLSTAD offered her belief that the Parkway crossing that was closed is just a matter of hundreds of feet from her home. The Cross Way crossing is within a fourth of a mile of her home. In further response to Chair P. Wilson, she stated that the Ruby crossing is about a half a mile from her house. CHAIR P. WILSON recapped the effect is that instead of having three crossings that only one crossing remains. MS. WOLSTAD stated she refused to pay any fees, no matter what they were, because the railroad crossed her property and she did not cross the railroad's property. This is evident since the homestead predated the railroad. She related that if a person drew a square and then drew a diagonal line bisecting the square, the top portion would represent her property. In response to Chair P. Wilson, she said her complaint is that the ARRC closed the crossing, which should remain open. The crossing runs along a section line and it is a matter of safety since the existing three crossings are frequently blocked by the railroad. The potential exists for the train to block access to the refinery or the subdivision. If an accident subsequently happened and the train could not move and the refinery also had an emergency, the refinery would be blocked. She recapped that the three crossings are impacted when the refinery is fully operating. Thus, the situation creates a potential safety risk. 2:26:39 PM MS. WOLSTAD, in response to Chair P. Wilson, answered that the location of three crossings are at 8th Avenue, 5th Avenue, and Cross Way. She offered her belief that Cross Way is one of the RS 2477 trails since it was part of the old Valdez Trail. She reiterated that the railroad crosses a trail that predates the railroad. 2:27:18 PM CHAIR P. WILSON, after first determining no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 313. 2:27:38 PM CHAIR P. WILSON recalled the fee structure of $266 per month crossing fee. She asked for an explanation of the fees. MR. BROOKS offered that during his 24 years working for the ARRC that railroad crossings have been his responsibility. He pointed out that railroad crossings are complicated issues, with intricacies, opinions, and a variety of costs are associated with them. He said, "We do our level best to treat everyone equally." He related that at Cross Way in North Pole, the crossing had deteriorated to the point that vehicles could not cross. The City of North Pole wanted it rebuilt. The ARRC worked with the City of North Pole and arranged to allow the costs to be repaid over a period of time. Thus, the ARRC amortized the cost for the rebuild so it would not be onerous for the small community. That project is different from the railroad crossing built to access the sports center in Wasilla, since the Wasilla railroad crossing project was completed in conjunction with a roadway project. Thus, the cost of the crossing was absorbed into the project. There is not any monthly charge associated with it. The projects may not have been treated the same, but "I think our heart's in the right place." 2:29:37 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON asked whether any interest is charged to the City of North Pole. MR. BROOKS offered to check. He was not certain, but believed the railroad crossing fee rebuild did not include any interest. REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked for the reason the ARRC closed the railroad crossings in the community of North Pole. MR. BROOKS explained two crossings were closed. One crossing was located between Lawrence and the Veterans' of Foreign Wars (VFW) hall, which served several residents, but the residents also had other access to cross the railroad. The roadway that led to the crossing on the north side did not follow an easement and the property owners to the north were in favor of closure. The other crossing was the Ruby crossing. That crossing is not on a section line, but the homestead alignment is on the section line. The ARRC has discussed with the City of North Pole adding a new crossing, but the discussions are preliminary. The Ruby crossing deteriorated to the point that vehicles had difficulty traversing the crossing. The crossing was not part of any agreement with the City of North Pole and the ARRC viewed the crossing as a private crossing. 2:31:14 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked when the ARRC discovers an upgrade is necessary, whether the community always bears the cost of the upgrade. MR. BROOKS stated that the ARRC works with the DOT&PF and communities on financing crossings. REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked whether the community or DOT&PF always bear the crossing costs. MR. BROOKS recalled that the ARRC does sometimes absorb the cost. REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked for the process the DOT&PF uses to interact with the communities. MR. BROOKS explained the process includes posting notices at the crossing and the ARRC holds a public meeting to discuss the crossing and try to come to a logical decision. He detailed the North Pole crossings, including the crossing at 12-mile Richardson Highway, the closed Ruby crossing, Cross Way, 5th Avenue, 8th Avenue, Lawrence Road, a closed crossing at Marnee, and one at the VFW. Thus, in the North Pole area two crossings were closed and five or six crossings remain. 2:33:15 PM MR. BROOKS, in response to Chair P. Wilson, related the right- of-way is typically 100 feet on each side of the railroad. CHAIR P. WILSON asked whether a private party could ask for a crossing. MR. BROOKS agreed. In further response to Chair P. Wilson, he said he was not certain if the circumstances were that a party wanted to open a business and the ARRC declined to put in a crossing. 2:34:14 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked if the community wanted to keep a crossing open but cannot afford the costs to do so what the process would be and what would happen. MR. BROOKS answered that generally the ARRC is able to "figure out something." He acknowledged that some support did exist for the Ruby Crossing, but the railroad crossing was closed. In the instance of Cross Way, the ARRC financed the construction and passed on the reconstruction costs. Thus the project amortized the $80,000 total cost of the project over 20 years. 2:35:15 PM REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked for an historical perspective of whether the railroad requests easements and if the ARRC maintains a history of the easements. MR. BROOKS explained that most of the right-of-way was established during the original railroad construction in 1920, but the Eielson branch from Fairbanks to Eielson AFB was established in the 1940s and crossed some private land, so some questions on property rights exist. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked whether the ARRC is not certain if it has a legal easement across property. MR. BROOKS explained that the ARRC believes it has the legal right, but that everyone is entitled to their legal opinion. 2:36:32 PM [HB 313 was held over.] 2:36:48 PM HB 267-SNOW MACHINE USE IN DALTON HWY CORRIDOR CHAIR P. WILSON announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 267, "An Act relating to travel by snow machine within five miles of the right-of-way of the James Dalton Highway." 2:37:33 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON, as chair of the subcommittee on HB 267, reported on the subcommittee work on HB 267. She explained the subcommittee agreed on two things. One, the subcommittee suggested that the committee request DOT&PF monitor the number of new recreational users through a permit process. The subcommittee did not believe a fee should be charged for the permit, but in case any degradation happened, it would be important to know how many snow machines were in any given area. The subcommittee envisioned that the permit user could access a website to determine whether adequate snow was available. Secondly, the subcommittee suggested specific access sites should be established along the Dalton Highway corridor, such as the DOT&PF could identify three sites. The subcommittee believed that by limiting access sites, it would be easier to monitor any damage. Further, she elaborated that the Dalton Highway section that typically receives more snow could handle more snow machines. The subcommittee determined it would like an annual review and report on the matter. 2:39:19 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON stated that lastly the subcommittee requested that the committee require recreational users to maintain safety equipment. The Dalton Highway does not currently have an Alaska State Trooper (AST), and historically only one AST has been assigned to cover the entire Dalton Highway Corridor. The committee suggested opening the Dalton Highway Corridor to recreational access only to milepost 176. She stated that Coldfoot is located at milepost 175 and has parking facilities and a hotel. Most of the e-mails in opposition expressed concern about impact to the area. Of the 241 e-mails received, 98 were in favor and 143 were against recreational use on the Dalton Highway. District 7 and 8 were the districts most interested in the access. The subcommittee suggested the committee request the area be monitored for any impact on the land and animal migration. 2:40:39 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked if the activity is meant to stay in the Dalton Highway Corridor or would recreational users have access to areas off the corridor. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON answered that recreational users would have access to the areas currently open outside the five mile corridor. 2:41:20 PM CHAIR P. WILSON asked where residents are located. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON offered that quite a few people live in the Wiseman area, which is above Coldfoot. Those residents can access the Dalton Highway Corridor and are not restricted. People residing outside the corridor can access the Dalton Highway Corridor. 2:42:01 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked for clarification on whether people currently living in Bettles can ride their snow machines, but if the person is coming up the road is restricted from accessing the five miles along either side of the Dalton Highway. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON replied yes. REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ would limit recreational users to Milepost 175 at Coldfoot, but would allow access across the Dalton Highway Corridor into that area. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON stated that people cannot transport hunting gear since the hunting regulations would still apply. Recreational users could not transport animals or hunting equipment. 2:43:22 PM CHAIR P. WILSON related her understanding that the access would be recreational. 2:43:56 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 267, labeled 26-LS1207\N, Kane, 3/25/10, as the working document. There being no objection, Version N was before the committee. 2:44:23 PM REBECCA ROONEY, Staff, Representative P. Wilson, Alaska State Legislature, as staff to Representative P. Wilson, Chair, House Transportation Standing Committee, referred to the memorandum of March 23, 2010, from Representative T. Wilson, Chair of the subcommittee, listing four bulleted points. Version N focused on two points, permits and limiting access to milepost 176. She explained the changes incorporated in Version N. On page 1, line 13-14, to paragraph (3), which adds language that limits snow machine travel to south of mile 176, at Coldfoot. Version N adds clarifying language, to identify the area as "on or across the highway corridor" to be certain that the access included the highway corridor. She referred to page 2, lines 7- 8, which is the definition of highway corridor. 2:45:48 PM MS. ROONEY referred to page 2, lines 19-24 which contains the description of the Dalton Highway Corridor for the prohibition time period between May 1 and September 30. She referred to proposed Section 3, to the provision established to require permits. This language addresses the subcommittee's recommendation for recreational user permits. The $25 fee was added to encourage people to obtain the permit since the goal is to obtain accurate information on the number of recreational users. 2:46:56 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON expressed concern that limiting the recreational users to a two-year period may increase activity, or overinflate the activity during the two-year period. Recreational users may feel the need to plan a trip during the only time the Dalton Highway Corridor would be open to recreational users. He suggested the permit timeframe be extended to five years. 2:48:27 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON pointed out that the number of permits is not limited since the data is important. She suggested that the number could be limited to 100 permits, which could be based on a lottery similar to the Denali Park permitting. She suggested limiting numbers rather than keeping the proposed sunset, offering that it may be easier on the administrator to have a designated number of people to permit. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN related his understanding that one reason for the sunset date was a report that would provide the number of permits issued, the number of accidents, and any other issues that might arise so the legislature could decide any future use. 2:50:54 PM MARY SIROKY, Legislative Liaison, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF), outlined some suggestions. She asked the committee whether Version N would prohibit current residents living north of Coldfoot from using the corridor since these residents currently are allowed access. She commented that the DOT&PF does not have permitting capabilities for this activity and the department would have to consider the number of personnel it would need to do so. The DOT&PF does not have any enforcement capabilities. Additionally, the DOT&PF prefers the maintenance crew to limit its duties to road maintenance and not add duties to assist the public, as it would impact the maintenance function on the Dalton Highway. She offered her belief that the language is written so some aspects could affect Department of Public Safety and not just the DOT&PF. 2:52:49 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked whether the DOT&PF has considered how recreational users would affect the trucking functions. MS. SIROKY related that as previously mentioned the DOT&PF envisions it would place signs to limit the "chain-up areas" at base of hills for commercial use only so recreational users will know these areas are off limits to recreational vehicles. The DOT&PF held some preliminary discussions with the trucking industry to determine if any other areas, such as pullouts should be restricted. The truckers did not have any recommendations. Thus, the DOT&PF would monitor pullout use to determine if any issues arise. She anticipated that if a pullout is full and the next one is full, or if all of the pullouts for a long stretch are filled that it could be problematic. 2:55:21 PM MS. SIROKY, in response to Representative Petersen, explained the DOT&PF will request funds to place signs to restrict "chain up" areas to commercial trucks only. In further response to Representative Petersen, she explained the "chain up" areas would not be available to recreational users. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked whether all vehicles should be required to have chains to drive. MS. SIROKY was not certain whether DOT&PF uses chains on all their vehicles, noting that commercial trucks pulling heavy loads have greater need for chains. 2:56:45 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked the subcommittee whether the Department of Natural Resources provided input. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON answered that the DNR did not respond. The subcommittee received input from the DOT&PF. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Alaska Department of Fish & Game were contacted but also did not provide input. 2:57:39 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ said she thought it would be helpful to have the agency input. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON related that the bill has a further referral to the House Resources Standing Committee, which is the appropriate committee to review any land use issues. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON answered that may be reason the subcommittee did not receive any input. 2:58:22 PM REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN offered his belief that some of the subcommittee recommendations may not be so easily accomplished. He inquired as to whether the committee should try to address some of the recommendations. He prepared an amendment previously to address the cutoff limit, but Version N limits access to milepost 176, which he thought was fine. He suggested since the DOT&PF does not have a permitting process in place that the committee may wish to consider an alternative. 2:59:47 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON suggested that the permit is a land use issue. He suggested that the BLM should issue the permit. That issue and any ADF&G issues for consideration could be taken up in the House Resources Standing Committee. 3:00:29 PM REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked whether snow machine access is limited to any other areas in the region. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON answered that the Yukon River Bridge is the beginning point under the bill and from Fairbanks to the Yukon River is currently open to recreational user. CHAIR P. WILSON reiterated the Dalton Highway Corridor area adds another 115 miles of recreational use. REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ clarified that recreational users have open access in the Dalton Highway Corridor to the Yukon River Bridge. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON answered yes. 3:01:56 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON moved to report the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 267, labeled 26-LS1207\N, Kane, 3/25/10, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN objected. He said he did not think the bill was ready to move since all of the subcommittee recommendations have not been addressed in the bill. 3:03:22 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON offered to pass the subcommittee notes and comments along. She offered her belief that the remaining questions are resources issues. 3:03:26 PM CHAIR P. WILSON expressed concern that the $25 permit fee is not high enough since people may ignore the permit requirements. She suggested the fee should be in the $250 or $350 range. REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON pointed out that currently, people could be using the Dalton Highway Corridor in violation of the current law. This bill will actually provide additional information, she said. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON agreed that the information is important, and that $250 fine would cause people to apply in advance for the permit. 3:05:28 PM CHAIR P. WILSON made a motion to adopt Amendment 1, on page 3, line 3, to delete $25 and insert $275. There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. 3:06:08 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON withdrew her motion to move the bill. [The committee treated Amendment 1 as rescinded.] 3:06:52 PM CHAIR P. WILSON made a motion to adopt Amendment 1, on page 3, line 3, to increase the fee from $25 to $375. There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. [The committee treated Amendment 1 as Amendment 2.] 3:07:54 PM REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON moved to report the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 267, labeled 26-LS1207\N, Kane, 3/25/10, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN objected. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Johnson, T. Wilson, and P. Wilson voted in favor of moving the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 267, labeled 26-LS1207\N, Kane, 3/25/10, as amended, from the House Transportation Standing Committee. Representatives Munoz and Petersen voted against it. Therefore, the motion failed by a vote of 3-2. 3:08:49 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON moved to rescind the committee's action to move the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 267, labeled 26-LS1207\N, Kane, 3/25/10, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN objected. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Johnson, T. Wilson, Munoz, and P. Wilson voted in favor of rescinding the committee's action to move HB 267, as amended. Representative Petersen voted against it. Therefore, the committee's action to rescind its action to move the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 267, as amended, labeled 26-LS1207\N, Kane, 3/25/10, from committee passed by a vote of 4-1. 3:10:47 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON moved to report the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 267, labeled 26-LS1207\N, Kane, 3/25/10, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no further objection, CSHB 267(TRA) was reported from the House Transportation Standing Committee. 3:11:34 PM ADJOURNMENT There being no further business before the committee, the House Transportation Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 3:11 p.m.

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 313 Sponsor Statement.pdf HTRA 3/25/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 313
HB 267 Ver N.pdf HTRA 3/25/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 267