Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/11/2003 02:13 PM House TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
            HOUSE TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                         March 11, 2003                                                                                         
                           2:13 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Jim Holm, Co-Chair                                                                                               
Representative Beverly Masek, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Cheryll Heinze                                                                                                   
Representative Vic Kohring                                                                                                      
Representative Mary Kapsner                                                                                                     
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Hugh Fate                                                                                                        
Representative Albert Kookesh                                                                                                   
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 147                                                                                                              
"An Act naming the William Ransom Wood Centennial Bridge in                                                                     
     - MOVED HB 147 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 156                                                                                                              
"An Act increasing the motor fuel tax and repealing the special                                                                 
tax rates on blended fuels; and providing for an effective                                                                      
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
HOUSE BILL NO. 173                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to a fee on studded tires; and providing for an                                                                
effective date."                                                                                                                
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
HOUSE BILL NO. 170                                                                                                              
"An Act increasing certain motor vehicle registration fees; and                                                                 
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                                  
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                                                               
BILL: HB 147                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE:WILLIAM RANSOM WOOD CENTENNIAL BRIDGE                                                                               
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S)HOLM                                                                                               
Jrn-Date   Jrn-Page                     Action                                                                                  
03/04/03     0377       (H)        READ THE FIRST TIME -                                                                        
03/04/03     0377       (H)        TRA                                                                                          
03/11/03                (H)        TRA AT 2:00 PM CAPITOL 17                                                                    
BILL: HB 156                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE:INCREASE MOTOR FUEL TAX                                                                                             
SPONSOR(S): RLS BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                                                                      
Jrn-Date   Jrn-Page                     Action                                                                                  
03/05/03     0424       (H)        READ THE FIRST TIME -                                                                        
03/05/03     0424       (H)        TRA, FIN                                                                                     
03/05/03     0424       (H)        FN1: ZERO(DEC)                                                                               
03/05/03     0424       (H)        FN2: (REV)                                                                                   
03/05/03     0424       (H)        GOVERNOR'S TRANSMITTAL LETTER                                                                
03/05/03     0424       (H)        REFERRED TO TRANSPORTATION                                                                   
03/11/03                (H)        TRA AT 2:00 PM CAPITOL 17                                                                    
BILL: HB 173                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE:FEE FOR STUDDED TIRES                                                                                               
SPONSOR(S): RLS BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                                                                      
Jrn-Date   Jrn-Page                     Action                                                                                  
03/05/03     0447       (H)        READ THE FIRST TIME -                                                                        
03/05/03     0447       (H)        TRA, FIN                                                                                     
03/05/03     0448       (H)        FN1: (REV)                                                                                   
03/05/03     0448       (H)        GOVERNOR'S TRANSMITTAL LETTER                                                                
03/05/03     0448       (H)        REFERRED TO TRANSPORTATION                                                                   
03/11/03                (H)        TRA AT 2:00 PM CAPITOL 17                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
GEORGE    LEVASSEUR,   Maintenance    and   Operations    Manager                                                               
Southcentral District                                                                                                           
Northern Region                                                                                                                 
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF)                                                                     
Valdez, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Provided information pertaining to HB 156;                                                                  
testified in support of HB 173, providing information on studded                                                                
tires and their effect on the roadways, and on alternatives to                                                                  
studded tires.                                                                                                                  
RONALD GEORGE (ph)                                                                                                              
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on HB 156, expressing concern                                                                     
regarding the total amount of the proposed tax.                                                                                 
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 03-8, SIDE A                                                                                                             
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR BEVERLY  MASEK called the House  Transportation Standing                                                             
Committee meeting to  order at 2:13 p.m.   Representatives Masek,                                                               
Holm,  Kohring, and  Heinze were  present at  the call  to order.                                                               
Representative Kapsner arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                  
HB 147-WILLIAM RANSOM WOOD CENTENNIAL BRIDGE                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR MASEK announced that the first order of business would                                                                 
be HOUSE BILL NO. 147, "An Act naming the William Ransom Wood                                                                   
Centennial Bridge in Fairbanks."                                                                                                
Number 0104                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR HOLM, the sponsor of HB 147, provided the following                                                                    
     House Bill  147 will  name the bridge  in honor  of Dr.                                                                    
     William Ransom Wood.                                                                                                       
     In  1973, Dr.  Wood  retired as  the  president of  the                                                                    
     University of  Alaska after 13  years of service.   One                                                                    
     of two  University of Alaska presidents  who decided to                                                                    
     stay  in [the]  state,  Dr. Wood  opened  an office  in                                                                    
     Fairbanks  where   international,  state,   local,  and                                                                    
     academic  ideas   and  plans   were  given   birth  and                                                                    
     manifested as parks,  plazas, hospitals, and industrial                                                                    
     and agricultural growth.                                                                                                   
     It is important to remember  that Dr. Wood was not only                                                                    
     an educator,  but also a  poet, a thinker,  an advocate                                                                    
     for   economic  development,   and   an  advocate   for                                                                    
     individual responsibility  and self-reliance.   He also                                                                    
     understood    the   requisite    relationship   between                                                                    
     successful,  self-reliant  individuals  and  a  robust,                                                                    
     prosperous community.                                                                                                      
     Dr. Wood  inspired thousands of individuals  around the                                                                    
     world through  his deeds and dedication  for this place                                                                    
     that  we  call  home.    He also  leaves  a  legacy  of                                                                    
     Alaskans   and  "Fairbanksans"   who  consider   him  a                                                                    
     regional and a  local hero - this from a  man who asked                                                                    
     no more from  life than to leave his  community and the                                                                    
     state a  little better than  he had  found it.   And at                                                                    
     that he succeeded.                                                                                                         
Number 0233                                                                                                                     
     As  the executive  director of  Festival Fairbanks,  he                                                                    
     desired  to  commemorate  the centennial  of  Fairbanks                                                                    
     with a pedestrian bridge crossing  the Chena River.  By                                                                    
     naming that  bridge the William Ransom  Wood Centennial                                                                    
     Bridge,  we will  hopefully inspire  future generations                                                                    
     of Alaskans to  ponder and aspire to  Dr. Wood's simple                                                                    
     yet  magnificent legacy,  to ask  nothing more  of life                                                                    
     than  to  leave our  state,  our  home, just  a  little                                                                    
     better than we found it.                                                                                                   
Number 0263                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK  referred to the  committee packet and  noted that                                                               
it included  the following:   a series of resolutions  in support                                                               
of  HB  147,  a  letter  of endorsement  from  U.S.  Senator  Ted                                                               
Stevens,  a picture  of the  proposed bridge,  and a  map of  the                                                               
bridge's location in Fairbanks.                                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR   HOLM  testified   that  the   bridge  is   well  under                                                               
construction and is  expected to be finished this year.   He said                                                               
the  bridge goes  from  Griffin  Park to  the  Doyon Building,  a                                                               
Native  corporation building  located  at the  north  end of  the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  asked if  there was  currently a  name for                                                               
the bridge.                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  MASEK  indicated  that  the bridge  was  not  currently                                                               
identified by name, but was identified as bridge number 1995.                                                                   
Number 0401                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  HOLM moved  to  report  HB 147  out  of committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  zero  fiscal                                                               
note.   There being no  objection, HB  147 was reported  from the                                                               
House Transportation Standing Committee.                                                                                        
HB 156-INCREASE MOTOR FUEL TAX                                                                                                
Number 0444                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK  announced that the  next order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO. 156, "An  Act increasing the motor fuel tax and                                                               
repealing the special  tax rates on blended  fuels; and providing                                                               
for an effective date."                                                                                                         
Number 0554                                                                                                                     
GEORGE   LEVASSEUR,    Maintenance   and    Operations   Manager,                                                               
Southcentral   District,    Northern   Region,    Department   of                                                               
Transportation and Public Facilities  (DOT&PF), noted that he was                                                               
Acting State Maintenance  Engineer, and gave an  overview of what                                                               
is encompassed by the highway user  fee.  He said that increasing                                                               
the  highway user  fee  from $.08  to $.20  a  gallon would  take                                                               
effect  July 1,  2003.    The increase  from  $.08  to $.20  will                                                               
generate  $41  million in  additional  revenue  to the  State  of                                                               
Alaska.  The total, raised from  the highway user fee at $.20 per                                                               
gallon, will be $70 million  annually.  Each year, the department                                                               
spends $60 million  in highway maintenance and  an additional $50                                                               
million  in federal  match for  highway construction;  this is  a                                                               
total of  $110 million  per year.   Even after  the tax  rises to                                                               
$.20  per gallon,  38 states  will have  a higher  fuel tax  than                                                               
Alaska,  when  taking  into  account  all  state  taxes  on  fuel                                                               
Number 0640                                                                                                                     
MR.  LEVASSEUR  stated that  the  national  average is  $.20  per                                                               
gallon.   The current rate of  $.08 was enacted in  1961 when the                                                               
annual highway maintenance costs were  $10 million.  If that $.08                                                               
was  adjusted  for  inflation, using  the  Consumer  Price  Index                                                               
(CPI), the  rate would actually  be $.48.   The department  has a                                                               
large backlog of deferred highway  maintenance projects that have                                                               
not been addressed due to lack  of funding.  The projects include                                                               
jobs  such as  brush cutting,  culver replacement,  ditching, and                                                               
replacing signs.  Several years  of increased maintenance will be                                                               
needed to complete these deferred  maintenance projects.  This is                                                               
a highway user  fee for vehicles used on roads  and highways.  It                                                               
is not intended to affect  fuel used for snowmobiles, all-terrain                                                               
vehicles (ATVs), or motorboats.   Alaska is no longer required to                                                               
use oxygenated  fuels to meet  air quality standards.   This bill                                                               
eliminates  the  tax  benefit  that  producers  and  distributors                                                               
receive on  the production and distribution  of oxygenated fuels.                                                               
According to the  air quality requirements of  EPA, Anchorage and                                                               
Fairbanks are no longer areas of non-attainment.                                                                                
Number 0748                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR HOLM noted that there was  no mention of JP-8 [jet fuel]                                                               
and recalled  that the tax  for JP-8 was  about $.035.   He asked                                                               
why the fuel for [Boeing] 747s was not being taxed.                                                                             
Number 0798                                                                                                                     
MR.  LEVASSEUR responded  that landing  fees are  applied to  the                                                               
large jets  that land  in Anchorage,  Fairbanks, and  Juneau, and                                                               
there  are  fuel  flowage  fees   as  well.    In  rural  Alaska,                                                               
increasing  the  cost  of  aviation   fuel  -  which  is  already                                                               
extremely high - wouldn't generate a  lot of money.  Landing fees                                                               
and  fuel  flowage fees  are  already  being  paid at  the  large                                                               
airports.   He stated  that DOT&PF spends  about $18  million per                                                               
year on airport maintenance.                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HOLM  asked if  the cost  of airport  maintenance versus                                                               
the landing  fees and  other fees could  be looked  into further.                                                               
He said that  with the tremendous amount of money  being put into                                                               
the Anchorage airport, for example,  he was interested in finding                                                               
out more information  on the possibility of  lessening the impact                                                               
to the state.                                                                                                                   
MR. LEVASSEUR  said that  landing fees were  only charged  at the                                                               
international airports.  He commented  that the Juneau airport is                                                               
operated by  the municipality and  the remaining airports  do not                                                               
have  landing fees.   He  said  he would  provide information  on                                                               
maintenance costs  versus the state's collected  landing fees and                                                               
fuel flowage fees to Co-Chair Holm.                                                                                             
CO-CHAIR MASEK asked  if the increased motor fuel  tax would only                                                               
be at the  pumps where gas is obtained for  vehicles, thereby not                                                               
impacting  rural areas  such as  Anvik  where fuel  is barged  or                                                               
flown in to the area.                                                                                                           
MR. LEVASSEUR said the tax pertains to highways.                                                                                
Number 0966                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE asked  for  further  clarification on  the                                                               
types of fuel that would be taxed.                                                                                              
MR.  LEVASSEUR confirmed  that the  tax  has nothing  to do  with                                                               
aviation fuel  and does not  apply to off-highway vehicles.   The                                                               
current rate of  $.02 per gallon for a  construction vehicle, for                                                               
example, will remain the same.                                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR  MASEK asked  how the  tax would  apply to  purchases of                                                               
fuel at a  gas station for an outboard  motor, four-wheeler, ATV,                                                               
or lawnmower.                                                                                                                   
MR.  LEVASSEUR  referred  that  question  to  the  Department  of                                                               
Number 1030                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER  asked, if a  person drove a  snow machine                                                               
to the  gas pump in  Bethel, whether  the receipt could  be saved                                                               
for a refund.   She also asked how the tax would  apply to a road                                                               
like  the Chief  Eddy Hoffman  Highway, which  is only  about six                                                               
miles  of  road, or  some  of  the  other  hubs that  don't  have                                                               
highways in or  out of the community, but yet  are referred to as                                                               
MR. LEVASSEUR  said he would  research that question  and provide                                                               
additional information.                                                                                                         
Number 1088                                                                                                                     
RONALD  GEORGE (ph),  Anchorage,  testified that  he agreed  that                                                               
additional money  was necessary because  the highways need  a lot                                                               
of  work.   He expressed  concern about  U.S. Representative  Don                                                               
Young's reference to increasing the fuel tax to $.33 per gallon.                                                                
MR.  LEVASSEUR  said that  a  federal  fuel tax  already  exists.                                                               
About $.25  per gallon bought at  the pump goes into  the Federal                                                               
Highway Trust Fund.  The  federal government disburses that money                                                               
to the  states on a formula-based  means.  That money  is used to                                                               
fund DOT&PF's summer construction program.   He said the fuel tax                                                               
would not  be $.32  in addition  to what is  now being  paid, but                                                               
would be a raise of a few cents.                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HOLM asked  if the  change from  $.08 to  $.20 had  any                                                               
bearing on  the additional $.25  to $.33 that  Representative Don                                                               
Young was proposing.                                                                                                            
MR. LEVASSEUR said the state rate was  not tied in any way to the                                                               
federal rate.   He  said he  was not sure  what the  federal rate                                                               
increase was going to be.                                                                                                       
CO-CHAIR  MASEK indicated  that  HB  156 would  be  held over  in                                                               
HB 173-FEE FOR STUDDED TIRES                                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR MASEK  announced that the  next order of  business would                                                               
be  HOUSE BILL  NO. 173,  "An Act  relating to  a fee  on studded                                                               
tires; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                    
Number 1277                                                                                                                     
GEORGE   LEVASSEUR,    Maintenance   and    Operations   Manager,                                                               
Southcentral   District,    Northern   Region,    Department   of                                                               
Transportation  and  Public  Facilities  (DOT&PF),  provided  the                                                               
following testimony:                                                                                                            
     This legislation would  impose a $10-per-tire surcharge                                                                    
     on all studded  tires sold in Alaska  beginning on July                                                                    
     1, 2003.   Based on projections from  the [DOT&PF], the                                                                    
     surcharge  would  raise  an estimated  $2  million  per                                                                    
     year.  Businesses  who sell the tires  would be allowed                                                                    
     to retain 5 percent of  the surcharge, up to $1,000, to                                                                    
     cover their  expenses.  According to  the Department of                                                                    
     Revenue,  the state's  cost to  administer the  program                                                                    
     will be about $50,000 per year.                                                                                            
     Many  drivers use  studded tires  as an  aid to  winter                                                                    
     driving  to  improve  traction on  icy  surfaces.    An                                                                    
     analysis  of Alaska  winter driving  conditions [shows]                                                                    
     that primary roads, where  traffic volumes are highest,                                                                    
     are covered  with ice or  snow only about 5  percent of                                                                    
     the  time.   During  the remaining  95  percent of  the                                                                    
     "studded tire season," pavements are bare and/or dry.                                                                      
MR. LEVASSEUR continued:                                                                                                        
     Alaskan pavement  wear rates  an average of  .13 inches                                                                    
     per million  studded-tire passes.  This  means that for                                                                    
     every 250,000 cars with studded  tires that travel over                                                                    
     a  one-mile stretch  of road,  that  will generate  one                                                                    
     dump truck  full of asphalt  and aggregate pieces.   We                                                                    
     spend  over $5  million per  year repairing  the rutted                                                                    
     roads  in Alaska,  and  we're behind  the  curve.   Our                                                                    
     studies  show  that  every  studded  tire  that's  sold                                                                    
     causes about $50 worth of damage.                                                                                          
     Studs  consist of  two main  components:   we've got  a                                                                    
     tungsten  carbide steel  pin that  is  surrounded by  a                                                                    
     sleeve, either  of steel or  of aluminum.   Heavy studs                                                                    
     had a  steel outer  shell and a  carbide stud;  the new                                                                    
     ones are aluminum, which do have a little less wear.                                                                       
Number 1380                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR  referred to  photographs depicting  studded tires'                                                               
impact  on  pavement,  noting  the   chips  in  the  asphalt  and                                                               
aggregate.   He referred to  another photograph of a  rutted road                                                               
in Anchorage that revealed up to two inches of rutted grooves.                                                                  
CO-CHAIR  HOLM  asked  if the  condition  of  the  Juneau-Douglas                                                               
bridge was the result of a similar condition.                                                                                   
MR.  LEVASSEUR replied  that  he  wasn't sure,  but  said it  was                                                               
probably  caused by  the same  thing if  the surface  was asphalt                                                               
over concrete.   He said  one could tell  by the distance  of the                                                               
rut, pointing to photograph which  revealed a rut measuring 57 to                                                               
60  inches, noting  that  this was  the  size of  a  rut from  an                                                               
intermediate-sized vehicle such  as a Subaru, whereas  a rut from                                                               
a large truck would measure 78 to 83 inches in width.                                                                           
Number 1432                                                                                                                     
MR.  LEVASSEUR   told  the  committee   that  speed  is   also  a                                                               
significant factor in  pavement wear, as studies  have shown that                                                               
there is 44 percent more wear at 55 mph than at 35 mph.                                                                         
Number 1465                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  MASEK  asked if  commercial  vehicles,  such as  double                                                               
trailers and the semi-trucks, add wear and tear to the highways.                                                                
MR. LEVASSEUR  replied that deformation occurs  during the summer                                                               
months,  especially   when  it's  hot,  when   heavy  trucks  are                                                               
traveling on roads  that don't have a  heavy asphalt-treated base                                                               
underlying the pavements.   He said there is  some deflection and                                                               
deformation;  however, the  majority  of the  wear  is caused  by                                                               
studded tires.                                                                                                                  
Number 1493                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR continued with the following testimony:                                                                           
     When studded  tires were first  introduced in  the late                                                                    
     1960s,  they  were   undoubtedly  an  effective  winter                                                                    
     driving aid.   But since  then there have  been several                                                                    
     other  innovations  that  have  dramatically  increased                                                                    
     winter driving safety.   Some of these are:   the anti-                                                                    
     lock  braking systems,  which  are  standard on  [some]                                                                    
     newer  vehicles;  radial  all-season  tires;  increased                                                                    
     availability  of  all-wheel drive  vehicles;  increased                                                                    
     availability  of  front-wheel-drive versus  rear-wheel-                                                                    
     drive vehicles;  very aggressive  maintenance programs;                                                                    
     chemical   deicing   strategies;   more   sophisticated                                                                    
     plowing-and-scraping   maintenance  vehicles;   a  tire                                                                    
     design which is  called a "sipe," which is  a cross cut                                                                    
     in the  tread of  the tire to  give better  traction on                                                                    
     ice;  and  early  warnings   by  the  National  Weather                                                                    
     Service  of approaching  storms  has  really helped  as                                                                    
     well.  New research shows  that studs only give about a                                                                    
     5  percent  increase  in  traction  over  winter  siped                                                                    
Number 1550                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK  inquired as  to the  cost of  "higher technology"                                                               
tires as compared with "standard tires."                                                                                        
MR.  LEVASSEUR suggested  that the  difference in  cost would  be                                                               
about 10  percent.  He  explained that  about five years  ago, an                                                               
aggressive chemical  deicing program was begun  by the department                                                               
in  Valdez, involving  the  use of  a  chemical called  magnesium                                                               
chloride,  which  is a  derivative  of  seawater.   He  said  the                                                               
chemical is considered to be  a "magic bullet" in the maintenance                                                               
field and  is being  used in  two different methods:   one  is to                                                               
spray the sand as it's leaving  the sand-spreader, at about 13 to                                                               
15 gallons  per cubic yard of  sand, with a 30  percent magnesium                                                               
chloride concentration.   When  this is sprayed  on the  sand, it                                                               
hits the  snow pack  on the roadway  and immediately  dilutes and                                                               
imbeds the sand  to keep it from blowing off  from traffic.  Over                                                               
time,  the magnesium  chloride migrates  through  the snow  pack,                                                               
hits the pavement,  and then breaks the bond between  the ice and                                                               
the pavement.   With repeated  plowing and with traffic  over the                                                               
magnesium chloride, it turns  into an "oatmeal-type consistency,"                                                               
and within  a short period of  time following a storm,  the roads                                                               
are  bare again.    He said  the [deicing  program  used] on  the                                                               
primary routes for the past four years has worked wonders, and                                                                  
accidents have been down.  The cost is about $1.40 per gallon of                                                                
magnesium chloride, he said.                                                                                                    
MR. LEVASSEUR  explained that  in drier areas,  the roads  can be                                                               
pre-wet  with this  chemical in  order to  prevent the  ice bonds                                                               
from  forming; this  helps in  drier storms,  although it  is not                                                               
very effective in wet storms.                                                                                                   
Number 1637                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR continued his testimony as follows:                                                                               
     On one side of the  equation, the studded tires provide                                                                    
     the public  with a valued safety  measure and increased                                                                    
     mobility.  On  the other hand, the  road damage results                                                                    
     in  ongoing  state  expense,  an  increased  amount  of                                                                    
     airborne particles,  a decrease  of the  effective life                                                                    
     of  our highway  traffic  markings,  and deep  pavement                                                                    
     ruts.   As  you  notice  as you  drive  around, we  are                                                                    
     losing our "stripes"  at an alarming rate;  in areas we                                                                    
     sometimes have  to stripe  three times  a season.   And                                                                    
     it's real dangerous when you  have foggy conditions and                                                                    
     you  can't see  the centerline  or  the fog  line.   So                                                                    
     studs have a real impact on that.                                                                                          
     These  pavement  ruts  that  you see  up  here  in  the                                                                    
     pictures result in  four major impacts.   The first one                                                                    
     is when the  ruts fill with water,  we've got excessive                                                                    
     hydroplaning  that occurs,  especially at  high speeds.                                                                    
     The tires  float on the  trapped water, and  it reduces                                                                    
     the driver's  ability to steer  and to brake.   Second,                                                                    
     the ruts cause  a channeling of tires,  which can cause                                                                    
     a  driver to  lose steering  when making  lane changes.                                                                    
     If  you've driven  on  any of  these  routes that  have                                                                    
     these deep-channeled  ruts, you  know exactly  what I'm                                                                    
     talking about.   Third,  the water  from the  spray and                                                                    
     splash,  as   you're  driving  through   that,  reduces                                                                    
     visibility  and  can  cause  problems  for  the  driver                                                                    
     behind  you.   Fourth, there  is an  increased cost  of                                                                    
     vehicle  maintenance due  to wear  on shocks,  springs,                                                                    
     struts, and needed alignments.                                                                                             
Number 1698                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR continued:                                                                                                        
     Our  department has  often  been  criticized or  asked,                                                                    
     "Well, what are you doing  to try to help minimize stud                                                                    
     wear?"  Well, we've  instituted several projects to try                                                                    
     and  increase   the  abrasion  resistance   of  asphalt                                                                    
     pavement.   I've  been involved  in  several of  [these                                                                    
     projects]  personally.   One of  the  major sources  of                                                                    
     wear is the  lack of hard aggregate in  Alaska.  Alaska                                                                    
     is a new state, geographically,  and we don't have hard                                                                    
     aggregate quarries.   We know of only two  in the state                                                                    
     that  are in  the  medium  range:   one  is located  in                                                                    
     Haines  and the  other is  at Cantwell.   Out  here, on                                                                    
     Egan Expressway, we have barged  in hard aggregate from                                                                    
     Haines  and also  from DuPont,  Washington, where  it's                                                                    
     much harder aggregate down there.   It's very expensive                                                                    
     to do that, but it does help us in reducing stud wear.                                                                     
Number 1728                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR continued his testimony:                                                                                          
     The second thing  is that we've gone to what  we call a                                                                    
     stone mastic-type  asphalt, where we're using  a larger                                                                    
     aggregate;  it  seems to  hold  up  just a  little  bit                                                                    
     better.   We've  also  been  experimenting with  adding                                                                    
     various polymers  to our  asphalt.   I was  speaking to                                                                    
     Representative  Kohring before,  and talking  about the                                                                    
     asphalt that we used to use  back in the [1970s] when I                                                                    
     was involved  in paving, many  years ago.  Some  of the                                                                    
     asphalts came  from the  [Middle East],  but especially                                                                    
     the  asphalts that  came  from Venezuela,  particularly                                                                    
     Lake  Maracaibo,  were  very tough,  durable  asphalts.                                                                    
     Alaska asphalt is inherently soft.                                                                                         
     We need  to use  Alaska asphalt because  we're refining                                                                    
     oil here  and we need to  get rid of the  product - and                                                                    
     we're  using it.   We've  undertaken a  program to  add                                                                    
     polymers  to our  asphalt, to  increase its  resiliency                                                                    
     and resistance to wear.   A couple of the compounds are                                                                    
     styrene,  that you  find  in the  beads  that you  pack                                                                    
     packages with,  and butadiene,  which is  a rubber-type                                                                    
     chemical.    We're  also  adding  plasticizers  to  our                                                                    
     asphalt to  make it  tougher and  stronger.   These, in                                                                    
     combination with  the harder aggregate sources  - we're                                                                    
     hoping that we get better performance of pavements.                                                                        
Number 1791                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  HOLM said  he recalled  the use  of "old  rubber tires"                                                               
that were "chewed up and put  into the asphalt mix" and asked why                                                               
that procedure was no longer being used.                                                                                        
MR.  LEVASSEUR  replied  that  the program  was  no  longer  very                                                               
effective.  He said that it  provided for some flexibility in the                                                               
asphalt,  but it  is  better  if the  rubber  from  the tires  is                                                               
liquefied because  tires are mostly butadiene  compound, and this                                                               
"gives  us  more stretch."    He  said  that from  a  maintenance                                                               
perspective, the  polymers help by eliminating  the thermal cross                                                               
cracking.   He explained that cracks  on roads can be  seen about                                                               
every two or  three hundred feet, due to  the thermal contraction                                                               
and expansion  from summer to  winter.  The asphalt  doesn't have                                                               
quite  the  stretch, but  by  adding  these new  polymers,  these                                                               
thermal cross cracks are almost eliminated, he said.                                                                            
MR. LEVASSEUR mentioned that this  is currently the third year of                                                               
a pilot program being conducted  in Valdez on Richardson Highway,                                                               
from mile  6 to mile 14,  with the result that  cross cracks have                                                               
only been located  where there has been a  cut-fill transition or                                                               
a culvert  that's lifted up  due to  frost conditions.   He noted                                                               
that  there  have been  experimental  projects  with polymers  in                                                               
Juneau,  as  well.    The  drawback  to  using  polymers  is  the                                                               
increased cost of  paving by about $40,000 per  mile; however, if                                                               
there  are an  estimated  65 to  70 cross  cracks  per mile  from                                                               
thermal  expansion and  contraction,  and  maintenance crews  are                                                               
sealing  all of  these  cracks to  avoid premature  pavement-life                                                               
failure, then the additional cost would be worth it, he said.                                                                   
Number 1862                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR told the committee,  "We've got our fingers in lots                                                               
of  different areas,  trying to  improve the  performance of  our                                                               
Alaskan asphalts."  He mentioned  that another critical point was                                                               
that of asphalt-treated bases that  lie underneath the pavements,                                                               
explaining  that  with  a  thicker base,  there  is  an  improved                                                               
distribution  of the  load throughout  the "subgrade"  instead of                                                               
just on  the upper two  inches.  Therefore,  more asphalt-treated                                                               
base work is being done, he added.                                                                                              
Number 1876                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR  stated that  studded tires cause  an excess  of $5                                                               
million of  pavement wear per  year, and that  HB 173 is  a small                                                               
step towards  recovering some of  those costs by asking  users of                                                               
studded tires to pay a nominal fee.                                                                                             
Number 1892                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK referenced  the $5 million amount  and asked where                                                               
the worst wear and tear from studded tires was being generated.                                                                 
Number 1900                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR  replied that  the worst  areas were  the Anchorage                                                               
area on  the Glenn and  Seward Highways; Thompson Pass,  south of                                                               
Valdez;  and in  the  Juneau area.   He  said  that the  Interior                                                               
Alaskan areas  don't have nearly  the stud wear and  tear because                                                               
the  roads are  covered more  with  snow pack,  fewer people  use                                                               
studded tires in the Interior,  and there is better traction once                                                               
the temperature drops to below 20 degrees.                                                                                      
CO-CHAIR HOLM commented that the  previous discussion was leading                                                               
to  the  obvious  question,  "Why  not  just  get  rid  of  studs                                                               
MR. LEVASSEUR responded  that about 10 years  ago, the department                                                               
proposed a  bill of  that nature  but it didn't  pass.   Also, he                                                               
continued, in certain  cities, the quality of  maintenance on the                                                               
side streets that is performed  by the municipalities isn't up to                                                               
the same level as the  state's maintenance program.  He explained                                                               
that there  is often  one major arterial  coming through  an area                                                               
with many side  streets, and the cities don't  have the resources                                                               
to enact a chemical deicing  or scraping program.  Oftentimes, if                                                               
there is a  hilly community adjacent to a state  road, there will                                                               
be real traction problems on the off-roads.                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  HOLM  commented that  many  vehicles  today are  either                                                               
four-wheel drive or  front-wheel drive and that  the radial tires                                                               
that are available  are just as good, or almost  just as good, as                                                               
studded  tires.   He said  he'd received  a letter  written by  a                                                               
Canadian who  indicated that studs  are not being used  in Canada                                                               
and that  Alaska is one of  the last states allowing  for the use                                                               
of studs on the highways.                                                                                                       
MR. LEVASSEUR  said that there are  only a few states  that still                                                               
allow studded  tires to be used.   He told the  committee that he                                                               
used to live  in Minnesota, where hundreds of miles  of roads had                                                               
been destroyed, and that after  the damage was ascertained, studs                                                               
were  banned in  that state.   He  said that  Minnesota countered                                                               
that  [legislation]  with  a  very  aggressive  chemical  deicing                                                               
program and  used sodium chloride.   Similarly, when Japan  had a                                                               
similar problem, resulting  in banning the use  of studded tires,                                                               
initially  there was  a lot  of  trouble, which  it countered  by                                                               
implementing a more  aggressive program that included  the use of                                                               
siped tires, which then helped to lower the accident rate.                                                                      
Number 2041                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR HOLM suggested that with  the use of magnesium chloride,                                                               
banning  the  use  of  studded  tires might  help  to  solve  the                                                               
problem, rather  than taxing  the public  for something  that may                                                               
eventually be discontinued.                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR responded that magnesium  chloride is effective for                                                               
temperatures  as low  as  20 degrees,  but  not for  temperatures                                                               
below that.                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR   HOLM   questioned   whether   the   current   proposed                                                               
legislation was  a "Band-Aid approach"  and expressed  his desire                                                               
to  consider  a  long-range  approach.   He  reflected  upon  the                                                               
frequency  with which  various regions  in  the state  experience                                                               
temperatures registering below 20 degrees.                                                                                      
Number 2111                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE  questioned   whether  the  perception  of                                                               
studded tires' providing additional safety was, in fact, true.                                                                  
MR. LEVASSEUR responded  that years ago, studded  tires were much                                                               
safer than standard  tires.  He told the committee  that his wife                                                               
has used crosscut  siped tires for the past three  years and that                                                               
this has  worked very well in  Valdez.  He maintained  that there                                                               
will  just be  times  when it's  best for  a  prudent driver,  in                                                               
response to  the weather conditions,  to adjust  his/her schedule                                                               
and to  allow time  for the  crews to use  deicing methods.   For                                                               
example,  one might  choose  to  not drive  from  Eagle River  to                                                               
Anchorage on  a rainy day  when the temperature has  warmed after                                                               
having  been  zero degrees  -  a  day  in which  "everybody's  in                                                               
trouble" because of there being an  inch of black ice.  He stated                                                               
that studies  have shown that studs  are about 5 percent  safer -                                                               
that there is  approximately 5 percent better  traction than that                                                               
of the siped tire.  He explained  that a sipe is a thin, crosscut                                                               
line, perpendicular  to the flow  of the tire, and  "they're very                                                               
close, about  1/8 inch apart,  and as  they flex, they  grab that                                                               
ice  and  slippery  pavement,"  providing for  a  high  level  of                                                               
traction.   He told the  committee that siped tires  are becoming                                                               
more popular  and that he  knows of several dealers  in Anchorage                                                               
who make siped tires available.                                                                                                 
Number 2189                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK  asked how much  a set  of four siped  tires would                                                               
MR. LEVASSEUR said that the  price was dependent upon whether the                                                               
tires were  for a large truck  or a passenger car,  but suggested                                                               
that  the price  would probably  be about  5 to  10 percent  more                                                               
expensive  than a  standard radial  all-season tire,  due to  the                                                               
extra manufacturing process of making that cross cut.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  said that her  tires were from  Norway and                                                               
contained  chopped  walnut  [shells]  and asked  if  those  tires                                                               
damaged the roads as studded tires do.                                                                                          
MR. LEVASSEUR said  he didn't believe that the  tires damaged the                                                               
roads, but noted  that the problem with  the walnut-shelled tires                                                               
is the retention  of the walnut shells themselves,  in the tires.                                                               
Tests  have revealed  that when  vehicles were  driven at  higher                                                               
speeds, less of the walnut  shells were maintained, and the tires                                                               
became ineffective  after one  year.   He said  that a  couple of                                                               
Scandinavian countries  still use  studs and  mandate the  use of                                                               
lightweight  studs  while  closely  monitoring  the  duration  of                                                               
months  allowing for  their use  on vehicles;  however, a  lot of                                                               
areas in  Scandinavia have banned the  use of studded tires.   He                                                               
mentioned  that  throughout   coastal  and  Southcentral  Alaska,                                                               
during this  particular winter,  ice and snow  pack have  been on                                                               
the  roadways  approximately   1  to  2  percent   of  the  time,                                                               
indicating that  the wear from  studs has been phenomenal  due to                                                               
the roads being bare most of the winter.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  asked if technological  advances warranted                                                               
her changing from "chopped walnuts to a siped tire."                                                                            
Number 2270                                                                                                                     
MR. LEVASSEUR responded that she  wasn't behind the curve, as the                                                               
walnuts  are a  valid  technology that's  been  available on  the                                                               
market for  quite some time, although  he opined that the  use of                                                               
siped tire would provide for  better traction.  He mentioned that                                                               
siped  tires  could  be  used   throughout  the  year,  but  that                                                               
eventually, over time, the cross cuts  would be worn down and the                                                               
tires would become  less effective.  He pointed  out that studded                                                               
tires also become less effective, and  are only good for three or                                                               
four years.                                                                                                                     
Number 2242                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER  said she  didn't  realize  that such  an                                                               
expense  was being  incurred to  the overall  maintenance of  the                                                               
road system.   She referred  to other technologies that  had been                                                               
suggested, such  as anti-lock  brakes, radial,  all-season tires,                                                               
front-wheel  drive,  and all-wheel  drive,  and  said that  those                                                               
technologies presumed that people had  at their disposal a budget                                                               
that allowed  one to  buy whatever  car was  desired in  order to                                                               
meet   one's  safety   requirements.     She  said   that  before                                                               
considering   the  elimination   of  studded   tires  altogether,                                                               
[legislators should recognize] that  all Alaskans don't have such                                                               
a budget,  and that studs provide  for a safety measure  on roads                                                               
which aren't being chemically treated.                                                                                          
MR.  LEVASSEUR said  the department  is  not proposing  a ban  on                                                               
studded tire  use, but is proposing  a $10 user fee  on each tire                                                               
that is  purchased after July  1, 2003; assuming that  tires last                                                               
for four  years, the $40 surcharge  would amount to $10  per year                                                               
for the use of  those tires.  He said he didn't  think of this as                                                               
a huge burden.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE asked if the  ruts on the highways were the                                                               
result of the weight of huge trucks.                                                                                            
MR.  LEVASSEUR replied  that the  distance between  the ruts  was                                                               
indicative of  a mid-sized  vehicle, which was  55 to  60 inches,                                                               
whereas larger trucks measure at about  78 to 83 inches in width.                                                               
He  said  there is  deformation  that  occurs during  the  summer                                                               
months from  the larger, overloaded trucks,  but that deformation                                                               
is  minimal compared  with what  is being  experienced from  stud                                                               
TAPE 03-8, SIDE B                                                                                                             
Number 2358                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE asked  if  a  SUV [sport-utility  vehicle]                                                               
qualified as a larger vehicle.                                                                                                  
MR.  LEVASSEUR confirmed  that  SUVs  were about  6  to 8  inches                                                               
Number 2347                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING referred  to earlier  comments concerning                                                               
the types  of oil  used in  pavement, with  the oil  extracted in                                                               
Alaska  considered as  being of  a lesser  quality than  oil from                                                               
other areas.   He then asked  about roads within the  state, such                                                               
as the Fairview Loop Road, that  were paved with a different kind                                                               
of oil and considered to be roads  of a higher quality.  He asked                                                               
whether there  was any requirement  mandating the use  of Alaskan                                                               
Number 2305                                                                                                                     
MR.  LEVASSEUR replied  that the  asphalt  that was  used in  the                                                               
1970s came from  Venezuela, the Middle East, or even  the Gulf of                                                               
Mexico, and was a harder asphalt  that lasted longer.  He said he                                                               
was  not  aware of  any  statute  mandating  the use  of  Alaskan                                                               
asphalt; however,  he brought up  the concern of what  would then                                                               
be done  with the asphalt that  was refined in Alaska,  if it was                                                               
not utilized.   He added that over the years,  polymers have been                                                               
added to the oil, in attempts to improve the quality.                                                                           
Number 2272                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK commented that although  HB 173 was focused on the                                                               
continued  usage  of  studded  tires,   she  wondered  about  the                                                               
possibility of  prohibiting the use  of certain types  of studded                                                               
tires, in  consideration of  eventually phasing  out [the  use of                                                               
studded tires] in the future.                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR MASEK announced that HB 173  would be held over and that                                                               
additional public testimony would be heard on March 18th.                                                                       
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Transportation Standing  Committee meeting was adjourned  at 3:05                                                               

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