Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/26/1995 01:37 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 133-TRANSPORTATION PLANNING                                                
                                                                               
 Number 042                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS asked Representative Kay Brown if she would give her           
 testimony on HB 133.                                                          
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KAY BROWN, Sponsor, stated she has been concerned              
 for a number of years with the transportation planning process.               
 She felt the transportation planning process should fully embrace             
 the positive changes made at the federal level which gives greater            
 flexibility than previously.  She indicated we should be striving             
 to have a "bottom up planning process" that involves individuals in           
 the community, rather than having plans dictated from the top and             
 from the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT/PF).           
 There are a number of specific concerns that have arisen regarding            
 particular projects.  She said she would not go into them in detail           
 now and only mentioned them as background information.  It was the            
 real life situations and problems in the community of Anchorage               
 that lead her to work with Cheryl Richardson and the statewide                
 group she is affiliated with.  This group was designed to help                
 improve the transportation planning process.  This legislation                
 would shift some responsibility from the state level to the local             
 level in terms of deciding what projects are completed.  It would             
 provide discretionary authority or the potential for appropriation            
 of more of the federal highway funds to local governments for                 
 projects in their area.  It would also authorize use of some of               
 these moneys for planning.  She referred to some posters that were            
 displayed around the committee room and explained one was from a              
 planning project that took place in Soldotna.  She felt this was a            
 fresh approach that helps them to look at the opportunity of                  
 building a road to actually improve people's quality of life and              
 make a positive change in the community.  She asked if there were             
 any questions.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 110                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS said that within his district they               
 have been submitting what they would like to have done within the             
 transportation system of Ketchikan.  Some of the projects have not            
 been looked at for years.  He stated there was a project currently            
 underway in Ketchikan that has been on the books for 20 years and             
 is something they would like to see done.  He asked if what                   
 Representative Brown was talking about was a similar issue.                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BROWN said her impression was that this issue varies           
 from area to area.  The system may work better in a smaller                   
 community than in Anchorage.  She felt the system as it applies to            
 Anchorage is seriously broken and there is no clear accountability            
 between the citizens and the group that is responsible -- the                 
 Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS), but                 
 Anchorage being a larger community has a different status under the           
 federal law.  She said she has been trying for a number of years to           
 change the structure of how things are in Anchorage.  She felt                
 there was nothing within HB 133 that would harm a small community.            
 It is intended to ensure that the process is responsive to what               
 local communities want, whatever their size.                                  
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS stated Ms. Mullen was in attendance from Soldotna to           
 present a slide show on some related projects in Soldotna.                    
                                                                               
 Number 151                                                                    
                                                                               
 PEGGY MULLEN, Member, City Council; and Soldotna resident,                    
 explained that her folks homesteaded in the area in 1948.  She said           
 she has started a few small businesses there.  She explained there            
 was a project they worked on this past February which involved a              
 great majority of the citizens in the process of some                         
 transportation decision making issues.  She said they were in                 
 support of this legislation.  She explained in 1993 there was a               
 sort of "harmonic convergence of happenings" in their area.  They             
 worked on the Spurr and Sterling Highways because they were going             
 to be 3-R projects which consist of Rehabilitation, Restoration,              
 and Reconstruction.  She explained Soldotna is approximately 150              
 miles south of Anchorage on the Sterling Highway.  She said you can           
 either make a right when you get to Soldotna and go 10 more miles             
 and end up in Kenai or go 80 miles further and this would put you             
 in Homer.  She stated there has been growing concern regarding the            
 Kenai River and keeping pollutants out of the river.  This was one            
 of the reasons that the DOT/PF became involved in the project of              
 working with the storm drainage system which at this point runs               
 directly into the river at two different points off the highway.              
                                                                               
 MS. MULLEN said the DOT/PF had just completed a project in Sterling           
 which made the front page of the Anchorage Daily News because a               
 number of people were surprised when they saw the final plans for             
 this project contained high lighting and not a very "human scape              
 result" when they were through.  It depicted a five lane road which           
 was necessary, but it depicted an inhuman effect in many people's             
 minds when the plans were completed.  A young architect who was               
 working with Ms. Mullen's family to decide what to do with part of            
 their homestead and worked on a land use plan, said, "Gee, I didn't           
 even know the river was here."  She said they wanted to construct             
 a project that would help to let people know that the river existed           
 because it is one of the key features of Soldotna.  She said the              
 city manager and city council were interested in working with the             
 DOT/PF on ideas for the types of projects they could do and to                
 involve more people of Soldotna.  In September 1994, the city                 
 manager, the Mayor, and herself met in Anchorage with some DOT/PF             
 planners and engineers and decided to come up with some sort of               
 event that would involve the public and let them have as much input           
 as possible.  She said she wanted to present some slides that would           
 show various aspects of the projects planned for Soldotna.                    
                                                                               
 MS. MULLEN first referred to the projects plans that were done in             
 February.  They were visited by an architect from Philadelphia who            
 coauthored a book that interested local architects.  Ms. Mullen               
 said they rented an old school bus for $250 and brought down the              
 professionals from Anchorage along with the architect who was going           
 to help them with this project.  They donated their time and some             
 money to the projects.  They were landscape architects, architects            
 and planners.  She then showed a slide depicting a map of Soldotna            
 with a tissue paper overlay with further suggestions on a possible            
 town commons/park area.  She referred to a historic photo of                  
 Soldotna around 1950 and indicated that the bridge over the Kenai             
 River in Soldotna was not constructed until 1950.  She said part of           
 getting the public to show up at this meeting was to have the local           
 anthropologist line up six of the original homesteaders and a                 
 couple of people who actually built the highway through Soldotna.             
 She explained this essentially established the town of Soldotna.              
 She said they talked a little bit about the lifestyle as it was               
 between 1948 and 1950.  She then presented a slide with a photo of            
 a model that some school kids in the third grade at Soldotna                  
 elementary did in preparation for this event.  She said in the                
 planning process they had sent out a letter to the local schools              
 asking for involvement in this project.  Three school teachers                
 along with their 70 to 80 students constructed a model of Soldotna            
 as it exists today.  It also shows all the existing buildings and             
 the improvements they would like to see in the future.  She said              
 they included in their model an underground viewing station to                
 watch the fish swimming up the Kenai River and an elevated train to           
 get around Soldotna.  She added they had good community                       
 involvement.                                                                  
                                                                               
 MS. MULLEN continued they decided to meet in the local high school            
 gym, which was a good centralized location for this event.  It gave           
 them a "stage" to work with.  There were approximately six or eight           
 small groups working all day on the project.  She explained they              
 broke themselves up into groups and people discussed what they                
 liked about Soldotna's main street and what improvements could be             
 made as well.  They discussed the identity of the town as far as              
 the summer activities in Soldotna.  She commented on the                      
 recreational vehicles that pass through Soldotna in the summer                
 months.  The highway is Soldotna's main street but it also is the             
 main artery that leads to Homer.  People in Soldotna have been for            
 a long time conflicted about not having a real center of their                
 town.  She said they had the League of Women Voters present to help           
 out and take comments for the record.  They also had some                     
 "wonderful young architects" construct some visual drawings of what           
 people said.                                                                  
                                                                               
 MS. MULLEN said also helping them with this project were people               
 from the DOT/PF.  For example, she was in the bridge construction             
 group and they had an engineer present who explained the                      
 construction of the bridge and how they planned to include some               
 pedestrian amenities.  She said currently the bridge does not                 
 provide for any safe crossings for pedestrians.  She showed a slide           
 that depicted a poster reading, "Soldotna make yourself at home."             
 This was designed to let people know when they were getting close             
 to Soldotna.  She said there were some landscaping funds available            
 for this project, but she was not sure how much.  She had                     
 conversations regarding how the city could "play off their salmon             
 theme."  She said there was a problem with Rvs wandering through              
 town.  A suggestion was made to have a large parking lot just                 
 before they get into town and provide the people with all the                 
 tourist information and then a shuttle bus to take them around                
 town.  She said there was a lot of concern of people driving too              
 fast through town because they are just passing through.  She said            
 they talked with the DOT/PF early on in the process of constructing           
 a model of the town.  She said they did come up with some federal             
 highway planning money that they were able to contribute to the               
 project.  She said the entire event was on video and hoped that in            
 a month when it is finished it will be available to other                     
 communities that have similar concerns.                                       
                                                                               
 MS. MULLEN reiterated the importance of the public involvement                
 they had not only from the city, but city residents, Chamber of               
 Commerce, DOT/PF and the local municipality.  She showed a slide              
 that depicted the five lane highway running through Soldotna.                 
 Also, an idea was presented on how Soldotna could do their snow               
 removal in a more efficient manner using a snow storage facility.             
 Currently, when the snow is not plowed the pedestrians are walking            
 directly on the streets.  She said there was a lot of concern                 
 regarding safety issues because of this.  She said there was a high           
 number of young kids in town who like to ride their bicycles.  She            
 said there was concern of the use of public lands in Soldotna in              
 relation to the river and the highway.  Another issue that was                
 addressed during this project were things to do in the winter                 
 months.  She said there was a person who came down from Anchorage             
 as a resource from the Winter Cities group and suggested painting             
 the snow.  She presented a slide showing a flower that had been               
 painted onto the snow.  She said they talked about that in relation           
 to the bridge which, for not much additional funding could be                 
 decorated with some color lighting.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 369                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS stated most of Ms. Mullen's family is still in                 
 Soldotna.  He added Ms. Mullen and he attended high school                    
 together.  He said Ms. Mullen has been very active on the city                
 council with related projects such as this one.  He then introduced           
 John Isaacs.                                                                  
                                                                               
 JOHN ISAACS, Alaska Chapter, American Planning Association, stated            
 he was part of a 130-member group who are municipal planners, state           
 resource managers and private practice individuals.  He stated they           
 supported the intent of HB 133 because they feel it improves                  
 participation in identifying transportation needs at the community            
 level.  He participated in the Main Street program as well as                 
 similar projects in Wasilla.  He said it is exciting to see what              
 happens to communities when they are given the chance to design the           
 projects.  He said in the past, many communities felt that the                
 DOT/PF had commandeered some of the Federal Intermodal System                 
 Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) funds and allocated them                
 internally without much local input or adequate participation.  He            
 said they support the elements of this bill that emphasize                    
 operation maintenance of existing transportation systems.  He                 
 commented it was really important to keep up what you have.  He               
 said they supported the consideration of pedestrian and other types           
 of individual transportation modes.  He said they support the                 
 increase and direct pass through of planning funds and project                
 funds of the communities.  Many of these communities are ready to             
 go; they have the funding and the capability to build and they                
 would like to do so.  He said this also strengthens the local                 
 review and approval process and builds a partnership in terms of a            
 joint local and state involvement in developing these                         
 transportation facilities.  Mr. Isaac said he was aware of the fact           
 that this bill needs some work but reiterated his support for the             
 intent, and would be glad to work with the committee and others               
 during the interim.  He then asked if there were any questions.               
                                                                               
 Number 410                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS then introduced Cheryl Richardson who was in                   
 attendance to testify on HB 133.                                              
                                                                               
 CHERYL RICHARDSON, Member, Alaska Citizens Transportation                     
 Coalition, said she is employed by the Alaska Center for the                  
 Environment, by the Transportation Project and they have organized            
 the Alaska Citizen Transportation Coalition.  The statewide                   
 coalition is comprised of three borough governments:  The North               
 Slope Borough; Northwest Arctic Borough; and Matanuska/Susitna                
 Borough.  Also included are Native nonprofit organizations, Tanana            
 Chiefs Conference and the Association of Village Council Presidents           
 out of the Calista Region, League of Women Voters from around the             
 state, the Winter Cities Association out of Anchorage, and people             
 working on trail issues.  She explained several issues brought them           
 together as a coalition.  When she started this work in Anchorage,            
 it was a project to get children across a major arterial safely.              
 She said she has found these issues to be statewide concerns.                 
 These people have come together under three headings.  First is               
 public participation from the grassroots to help prioritize the               
 transportation problems within the communities and how they should            
 be addressed.  As a part of involving the public we are asking that           
 good information is delivered to people so they can make judicious            
 decisions.  Currently, they feel some of the information is lacking           
 about what the projects cost the community to build and operate and           
 cost in terms of safety and air pollution.  Secondly, local control           
 over the projects. It is the section of the bill that allocates               
 potentially 35 percent of the dollars to local governments for them           
 to use on local projects.  Third, they are looking at how projects            
 are designed statewide.  She said a major concern in most cities is           
 that pedestrians do not feel safe.  Another concern is that                   
 projects are over built and cost vast sums of money to construct              
 and later maintain.  Other concerns are lighting and speed limits             
 on the roads.  These are statewide concerns - the scale just varies           
 from community to community.  She said they were present today to             
 help the committee come to a consensus on these issues and                    
 hopefully work with the committee during the interim to come up               
 with some language that could be incorporated statewide.                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that she was pleased when this group           
 got together.  She expressed her support for the issue and said we            
 should be pleased with the opportunity to get in on the ground                
 floor with the many transportation corridors in the state, and                
 emphasized the need and importance of ensuring they are done                  
 correctly.                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. RICHARDSON thanked Representative James for her support in the            
 project and said they appreciate Representative James's support of            
 rail systems in Alaska.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 453                                                                    
                                                                               
 KEVIN RITCHIE, Executive Director, Alaska Municipal League, said              
 they work with the Alaska Planners Association.  He said this issue           
 is a high priority of the Alaska Municipal League, as you can see             
 the type of interest and creativity on the part of the                        
 municipalities within Ms. Mullen's presentation, and added this was           
 true of all municipalities.  They would like to take a vital role             
 in transportation planning for the state.  He expressed interest in           
 working with the committee and other groups during the interim.               
                                                                               
 Number 465                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS said he would keep Mr. Ritchie informed of any                 
 meetings in the future regarding this issue.  He then announced he            
 would take testimony via teleconference from Anchorage.                       
                                                                               
 FRANK DILLON, Executive Director, Alaska Trucking Association                 
 stated he was in opposition to SSHB 133.  He explained SSHB 133 has           
 been in the thinking at the Center for the Environment for                    
 sometime.  He said they have studied ways that they can divert                
 highway money from actual timely transportation projects to come up           
 with a variety of very attractive packaging for that purpose.  One            
 of them is the presupposition that the local people of the state,             
 "citizens," do not have a role in transportation planning at the              
 present time.  Having attended numerous meetings over the past                
 several years with the DOT/PF and community councils on                       
 transportation issues, he asked to differ with that analysis.  He             
 expressed concern for the way this bill is structured.  He said it            
 was placing constraints on construction projects and transportation           
 projects.  He felt the real reason this bill was put forth is not             
 so much to improve transportation, but too slow the planning                  
 process down so nothing gets accomplished.                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS asked if Bo Brownfield who was in attendance would             
 like to testify.                                                              
                                                                               
 BO BROWNFIELD, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Transportation &            
 Public Facilities, said their position is that they support some of           
 the concepts of this bill, such as the concept of increased public            
 participation.  He commented on the slide presentation and                    
 indicated it is a good success story.  He said they agree with the            
 concept of alternative modes of transportation where it is feasible           
 and where it makes good sense.  He said there are some good                   
 features of this bill, but would be less than honest to point out             
 that there are some elements of this bill that need review.   The             
 DOT/PF is prepared to work with the sponsor in the interim in an              
 attempt to resolve some of the issues they are concerned with.  He            
 then asked if there were any questions.                                       
                                                                               
 Number 502                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS said he would take testimony from Nancy Webb in                
 Fairbanks.                                                                    
                                                                               
 NANCY WEBB, Planning Consultant, testified via teleconference from            
 Fairbanks and said she donated time to the League of Women Voters             
 this past year to be part of the transportation coalition in the              
 hopes that this would move the state along into the next century              
 and get them to implement the ISTEA funds a bit more fully and take           
 advantage of all the funds that could be made available to the                
 state.  She added the intent of SSHB 133 is a step forward but does           
 need some work.  The League of Women Voters is very (indisc.) by              
 this bill.  She suggested that Representative James cosponsor this            
 bill because of her background and interest in transportation                 
 issues.  She said she was disappointed in Mr. Dillon's comments.              
 She feels he does not fully understand what the group and project             
 are all about.  She said he might be feeling some paranoia with               
 this environmental group that is involved.  She said there was a              
 lot more than just the environmental groups involved in this                  
 coalition.  He should try and look beyond that fact.                          
                                                                               
 GARY MOORE, Director, Planning and Development, Tanana Chiefs                 
 Conference (TCC), testified via teleconference from Fairbanks and             
 said TCC is in full support of this bill.  He had participated with           
 the Alaska Citizens Transportation Coalition since its formation.             
 He said that Ms. Richardson has done an outstanding job on bringing           
 a lot of the organizations together that otherwise would not,                 
 including TCC.  He said the reason they support SSHB 133 is because           
 the issue of the local control of transportation dollars is                   
 important.  He said they would like to see more local control,                
 local governments being able to help the DOT/PF make decision on              
 appropriate modes of transportation for the individual communities.           
 He said he also supported the idea of a certain percentage of state           
 dollars going to the local communities to help with the local                 
 projects. He said he did not have a chance to review the bill in-             
 depth.  He supported the idea of working on the bill through the              
 interim.  He said he appreciated Representative James's position on           
 this bill.  He indicated they do need a majority member to sponsor            
 this bill.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 564                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS said he would take testimony via teleconference from           
 Anchorage.                                                                    
                                                                               
 WALTER PARKER testified in support of SSHB 133.  He said he did not           
 see anything in the bill that as highway commissioner 20 years ago            
 he couldn't have lived with.  The 35 percent he did not feel has              
 any great effect on the overall budget.  Currently we are spending            
 more than that on the budgets within the boroughs and on local                
 projects.  He said in regards to planning, he wished they had more            
 of this in the original DOT/PF bill.                                          
                                                                               
 Number 576                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the success of the Soldotna process,                
 which she was very impressed with, was due to people like Ms.                 
 Mullen.                                                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BROWN said she has been working with Mr. Kito and              
 referred to two amendments she had in the packet.  She said she is            
 trying to address concerns and possibly other concerns beyond these           
 two amendments.  The amendment that refers to Section 2 stresses              
 some of the things that would be calculated.  When looking at what            
 projects will cost over a certain period of time, the adoption of             
 the amendment would help reduce the cost of fiscal note involved.             
 She added she did not want to require information that is not                 
 relevant or useful.                                                           
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS acknowledged the amendments and said it was clear              
 the amendments are addressing specific concerns that the DOT/PF               
 has.  He said SSHB 133 will be carried over and discussed possibly            
 this coming Friday at 1:00 p.m.                                               

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