Legislature(1993 - 1994)

02/16/1993 03:38 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                 SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE                               
                        February 16, 1993                                      
                            3:38 p.m.                                          
  MEMBERS PRESENT                                                              
  Senator Bert Sharp, Chairman                                                 
  Senator Randy Phillips, Vice Chairman                                        
  Senator Tim Kelly                                                            
  MEMBERS ABSENT                                                               
  Senator Jay Kerttula                                                         
  Senator Georgianna Lincoln                                                   
  COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                           
  SENATE BILL NO. 82                                                           
  "An Act relating to the Dalton Highway."                                     
  SENATE BILL NO. 110                                                          
  "An  Act  requiring  the use  of  a  motorcycle  helmet when                 
  operating or  riding on a  motorcycle; and providing  for an                 
  effective date."                                                             
  PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                             
  SB 82 - No previous action to record.                                        
  SB 110 - No previous action to record.                                       
  WITNESS REGISTER                                                             
  Senator Steve Frank                                                          
  State Capitol                                                                
  Juneau, Alaska 99801                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:  Sponsor of SB 82.                                       
  Frank Turpin, Commissioner                                                   
  Department of Transportation                                                 
    and Public Facilities                                                      
  3132 Channel Drive                                                           
  Juneau, Alaska 99801-7898                                                    
  POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of SB 82.                          
  John Murphy, Director                                                        
  Division of Alaska State Troopers                                            
  Department of Public Safety                                                  
  5700 Tudor Road                                                              
  Anchorage, Alaska 99507-1225                                                 
  POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on SB 82.                                     
  Wayne Regelin, Deputy Director                                               
  Division of Wildlife Conservation                                            
  Department of Fish and Game                                                  
  P.O. Box 25526                                                               
  Juneau, Alaska 99802-5526                                                    
  POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on SB 82.                                     
  Keith Gerkin, Deputy Commissioner                                            
  Department of Transportation                                                 
  3132 Channel Drive                                                           
  Juneau, Alaska 99801-7898                                                    
  POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of SB 82.                          
  ACTION NARRATIVE                                                             
  TAPE 93-6, SIDE A                                                            
  Number 001                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN  SHARP called  the Senate  Transportation Committee                 
  meeting to order at 3:38 p.m.                                                
  The first order of business  the committee addressed was  SB
  sponsor  of the  legislation, said  the bill would  open the                 
  Dalton  Highway for  public use  and would  allow people  to                 
  drive their personal vehicles on it.  Currently, the highway                 
  is closed to  the general public  from Disaster Creek up  to                 
  Prudhoe  Bay.  At the present time,  to qualify for a permit                 
  to  drive  the   highway  you  must  have  a  commercial  or                 
  industrial  use.  He  said in his opinion,  there is no real                 
  reason not  to have  the road open  to the  public as  it is                 
  owned by the  public and maintained  with public money.   In                 
  the summer, the Dalton Highway is no more dangerous than the                 
  Taylor or  Denali Highways.   Senator  Frank indicated  that                 
  there  may  be a  safety concern  during  the winter  and he                 
  anticipates  that  the  commissioner  of the  Department  of                 
  Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT/PF) will close the                 
  road.   He said that the  department has indicated  it is no                 
  more costly  to  open  the  road  to the  public  as  it  is                 
  currently being maintained for industrial traffic.   Senator                 
  Frank  explained the  primary issue that  has kept  the road                 
  closed is concern  on the  part of rural  residents -  North                 
  Slope Borough,  Tanana Chiefs  Conference -  in that  it may                 
  have some detrimental impacts on fish and wildlife resources                 
  in the area.   He noted that the Department of Fish and Game                 
  is comfortable opening  the highway.  Senator Frank  said in                 
  the past, the Department of Public Safety has asked for more                 
  money to put  more safety officers on the  highway.  He said                 
  that  is  a  matter of  discretion  and  opinion  as to  how                 
  important it would be to have a public safety officer on the                 
  Dalton versus the Taylor or Steese  or any other area of the                 
  state.  Senator Frank said he believes that opening the road                 
  would enhance tourism  opportunities and people's  enjoyment                 
  of their publicly owned highway system.                                      
  CHAIRMAN SHARP said  there have  been concerns expressed  by                 
  the  North Slope  Borough, in  past years,  relating to  the                 
  ability to  respond in  the case  of an  accident.   Senator                 
  Frank referred  to the Steese or Denali  Highways, and asked                 
  if  is there  any  compelling difference.    He said  people                 
  travel at their own risk.                                                    
  Number 139                                                                   
  FRANK TURPIN, Commissioner, Department of Transportation and                 
  Public Facilities, testified in favor  of opening the Dalton                 
  Highway.  Currently, the Dalton Highway  is a 416 mile route                 
  of which  209 miles are  already open  to the  public.   The                 
  remaining 207 miles would save  DOT/PF a considerable amount                 
  of state money in improving the road surfacing and replacing                 
  some bridges which are beginning to  be limited to the gross                 
  weights  of  the trucks  that now  travel  the highway.   He                 
  explained that there are three bridges that must be replaced                 
  with an estimated cost of $1.8  million, which would have to                 
  be  provided out of state  dollars.  By  opening the road to                 
  public use, it would provide more recreational areas and the                 
  Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recognized that and  has                 
  developed a  plan for  providing rest  facilities and  other                 
  recreational activities along the route.                                     
  CHAIRMAN SHARP  noted if the  road is opened,  federal funds                 
  may be utilized on  the road.  He asked  Commissioner Turpin                 
  if utilizing  federal funds  would allow  the department  to                 
  reduce overall operational maintenance costs in the 207 mile                 
  distance.  Commissioner Turpin explained  DOT/PF was able to                 
  perform  some work  on  50  miles  with state  funding  last                 
  summer.  That helped  to reduce winter maintenance costs  as                 
  the highway was elevated so that the snow was blown clear by                 
  the wind.   He said federal  capital money would reduce  the                 
  amount of state maintenance money required.                                  
  Number 213                                                                   
  JOHN MURPHY,  Director, Division of  Alaska State  Troopers,                 
  Department of  Public Safety, explained that  the department                 
  doesn't  object  to  opening the  haul  road.    He said  he                 
  believes that  opening the road  would bring tourism  and it                 
  will have an impact on public  safety.  Mr. Murphy indicated                 
  that it is difficult to figure what that impact will be.  He                 
  discussed a  situation where  there was an  accident on  the                 
  road where a trucker broke his neck.  He said if the road is                 
  open, with the  increased traffic  and if a  camp ground  is                 
  built, there  will be a need of a  presence of an officer on                 
  the highway.  He said he isn't  sure what the impact will be                 
  but he believes it will be substantial.                                      
  CHAIRMAN SHARP  asked how  many troopers  there are  between                 
  Fairbanks and Cold Foot.  Mr.  Murphy said there aren't any,                 
  but he believes  there is one  Fish and Wildlife Trooper  at                 
  Cold Foot.  He noted that the  position and an aircraft will                 
  be moved out on July 1.                                                      
  Number 265                                                                   
  WAYNE  REGELIN,   Deputy  Director,  Division   of  Wildlife                 
  Conservation,  Department  of   Fish  and  Game,  said   the                 
  department  doesn't  have a  problem  with opening  the haul                 
  road,  but  does   have  a   few  concerns  about   wildlife                 
  populations and increased hunting.  The department has asked                 
  for a small amount of money  to hire a technician during the                 
  summer  to monitor the  road and help  with law enforcement.                 
  He explained that most hunters hunt  caribou.  They drive up                 
  the  road and fly  back from various  points.  He  noted the                 
  department wants to keep a  close eye on the sheep  and bear                 
  SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS referred to  a similar situation with                 
  the Dempster Highway,  located in the  Yukon, and asked  Mr.                 
  Regelin if  he knows  how they  manage their  fish and  game                 
  along the 325 mile road.   Mr. Regelin said he didn't  know,                 
  but would make an attempt to find out.                                       
  CHAIRMAN SHARP asked where the  present "no hunting zone" is                 
  except for bow  hunting.  Mr. Regelin said  it is five miles                 
  on each side,  but it has  become more complicated over  the                 
  last six months as the federal subsistence board is allowing                 
  hunting in the  five mile corridor  by rural residents.   He                 
  explained  that  since  there   wasn't  any  customary   and                 
  traditional determinations for any of the species, any rural                 
  resident that qualifies  for federal  subsistence can go  up                 
  there and hunt.   Mr. Regelin said the department  has asked                 
  BLM  and the  Federal Subsistence  Board to  try to  correct                 
  this.  It  is open for  hunting in the  five mile zone,  but                 
  only with bow  and arrows.  He noted there is a problem with                 
  off-road vehicles as there is a statute that says you cannot                 
  use off-road vehicles  within the five mile  corridor except                 
  for mining.   Mr.  Regelin said  over the  past few  months,                 
  there has been a lot of reports from bow hunters complaining                 
  about people hunting with  rifles.  He said they  believe it                 
  is because  of the  subsistence confusion  with the  federal                 
  There  being no further  testimony, Chairman Sharp indicated                 
  the  bill would  be heard  the  following Tuesday  and noted                 
  there would also be a teleconference on the measure.                         
  Number 364                                                                   
  The  second order  of  business to  come  before the  Senate                 
  Transportation   Committee  was  SB   110  (REQUIRE  USE  OF                 
  MOTORCYCLE  HELMETS).   KEITH  GERKIN,  Deputy Commissioner,                 
  Department of  Transportation, informed  the committee  that                 
  the bill was introduced because of  a federal policy where a                 
  decision was made in Congress that they should encourage the                 
  mandatory use of helmets by motorcycle riders in all states.                 
  Congress has put in law a requirement that if a state  fails                 
  to  require  motorcycle  helmets, that  they  will  divert a                 
  certain  amount   of  federal   highway  dollars   from  the                 
  construction part of  the program, which DOT/PF  manages, to                 
  safety education enforcement  managed by  the Department  of                 
  Public Safety.  Mr. Gerkin said the department  doesn't have                 
  any  problems with the Department of Public Safety or others                 
  doing  more  work  toward   highway  safety  and  education,                 
  however, the amount of money  is about $5.25 million federal                 
  dollars  each  year  that  would  diverted.    He  said  the                 
  department's  desire  is  that  the  state  adopt  a  law in                 
  conformance with the federal requirement which would require                 
  motorcycle drivers to wear the helmets.  He noted that there                 
  is  a  current  requirement  for  helmets   to  be  worn  by                 
  passengers and people under the age of 18.                                   
  SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS  asked what the results were when the                 
  State of  Nevada challenged  the federal  government on  the                 
  speed limits.                                                                
  Mr.  Gerkin  explained  that Nevada  and  California  lead a                 
  strong effort to  do away with the  55 mph speed limit.   He                 
  said  Congress  has changed  the law  to have  certain speed                 
  limits  raised above  that.   He  noted  that a  significant                 
  portion  of the Parks Highway has a  higher speed limit.  Mr                 
  Gerkin said there have been some  states that have had funds                 
  sanctioned for failure to maintain roads.                                    
  Senator Randy Phillips asked  what the department's position                 
  is on changing the effective date to midnight, September 30,                 
  1993.  Mr. Gerkin said  the federal law requires conformance                 
  to be prior  to the next fiscal  which begins on October  1.                 
  He  said  leaving it  to  the  last minute  may  create some                 
  problems in getting  projects obligated  early in the  year.                 
  As  a practical  matter, the  department begins  to  use the                 
  money immediately,  but if  the law  is in  place and it  is                 
  clear that  it  will happen,  there probably  wouldn't be  a                 
  problem.    He said  he  was  handed a  memorandum  from the                 
  Governor's  Office in  Washington, D.C., where  the National                 
  Highway Traffic Safety Agency has  suggested that submission                 
  of  a  resolution  or  legislation  by  April  1,  would  be                 
  necessary  to ensure  certification  by October  31.   It is                 
  important that they know that the  bill has been signed into                 
  law by April 1.                                                              
  Number 455                                                                   
  There being  no further testimony  on SB 110,  Senator Randy                 
  Phillips moved to delete "July  1" and insert "September 30,                 
  1993" on  page 1, line 7.   Hearing no objection, the motion                 
  Senator Randy Phillips  moved that CSSB 110 (TRA), be passed                 
  out  of the Senate  Transportation Committee with individual                 
  recommendations.  Hearing  no objection, the bill  moved out                 
  of committee.                                                                
  There  being  no   further  business  to  come   before  the                 
  committee, CHAIRMAN SHARP adjourned the meeting at 4:24 p.m.                 

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