Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/16/1993 03:38 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 82 (OPENING THE DALTON HIGHWAY). SENATOR STEVE FRANK, 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 populations. 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 regulations. 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 carried. 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.