Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/02/2000 01:39 PM Senate TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
           SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE                                                                                      
                    March 2, 2000                                                                                               
                      1:39 p.m.                                                                                                 
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                                 
Senator Jerry Ward, Chairman                                                                                                    
Senator Drue Pearce, Vice Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Mike Miller                                                                                                             
Senator Rick Halford                                                                                                            
Senator Georgianna Lincoln                                                                                                      
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                  
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                              
PORT OF BELLINGHAM PRESENTATION                                                                                                 
SENATE BILL NO. 235                                                                                                             
"An Act authorizing the exchange of land between the Alaska                                                                     
Railroad Corporation and Eklutna, Inc., between the Alaska Railroad                                                             
Corporation and the United States Department of the Army and the                                                                
United States Department of the Air Force, between the Alaska                                                                   
Railroad Corporation and Chugach Alaska Corporation, and between                                                                
the Alaska Railroad Corporation and the Municipality of Anchorage;                                                              
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
     MOVED CSSB 235(TRA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                       
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 38                                                                                                  
Expressing support for a cooperative United States-Canada                                                                       
feasibility study on extending the North American rail system                                                                   
through British Columbia and the Yukon Territory to Alaska.                                                                     
     MOVED SJR 38 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
EXECUTIVE ORDER 101 - RELOCATE HIGHWAY SAFETY PLANNING                                                                          
PREVIOUS SENATE ACTION                                                                                                          
SB 235 - No previous Senate action.                                                                                             
SJR 38 - No previous Senate action.                                                                                             
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                                
Jim Darling                                                                                                                     
Executive Director                                                                                                              
Port of Bellingham                                                                                                              
355 Harris Avenue                                                                                                               
Bellingham, Washington 98227                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Member of Port of Bellingham Presentation                                                                  
Ginny Benton                                                                                                                    
President of the Board of Commissioners                                                                                         
Port of Bellingham                                                                                                              
355 Harris Avenue                                                                                                               
Bellingham, Washington 98227                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Member of Port of Bellingham Presentation                                                                  
Scott Walker, Commissioner                                                                                                      
Port of Bellingham                                                                                                              
355 Harris Avenue                                                                                                               
Bellingham, Washington 98227.                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Member of Port of Bellingham Presentation                                                                  
John Carter                                                                                                                     
Director of Finance and Marine Terminals                                                                                        
355 Harris Avenue                                                                                                               
Bellingham, Washington 98227                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Member of Port of Bellingham Presentation                                                                  
Mike Stoner                                                                                                                     
Port Environmental Manager                                                                                                      
355 Harris Avenue                                                                                                               
Bellingham, Washington 98227                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Member of Port of Bellingham Presentation                                                                  
Mr. Tom Brigham, Director                                                                                                       
Statewide Planning Services                                                                                                     
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities                                                                              
3132 Channel Drive                                                                                                              
Juneau, AK  99801-7898                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented and supports Executive Order 101                                                                 
Ms. Kara Moriarty                                                                                                               
Aide to Senator Wilken                                                                                                          
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska  99801-1182                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented SJR 38                                                                                           
Ms. Pam LaBolle, Executive Director                                                                                             
Alaska State Chamber of Commerce                                                                                                
217 2nd St.                                                                                                                     
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SJR 238                                                                                           
Senator Loren Leman                                                                                                             
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska  99801-1182                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Sponsor of SB 235                                                                                          
Mr. Mike Pauley                                                                                                                 
Aide to Senator Leman                                                                                                           
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska  99801-1182                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Described the changes made in CSSB 235(TRA)                                                                
Bill Stoltz                                                                                                                     
Aide to Senator Halford                                                                                                         
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182                                                                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented a proposed amendment to SB 235                                                                   
Ms. Wendy Lindskoog                                                                                                             
Alaska Railroad Corporation                                                                                                     
PO Box 107500                                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska  99510-7500                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports Senator Halford's amendment to SB 235                                                             
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                                
TAPE 00-02, SIDE A                                                                                                              
CHAIRMAN WARD called the Senate Transportation Committee meeting to                                                             
order at 1:39 p.m.  Present were Senators Halford, Miller, and                                                                  
Ward.  Chairman Ward announced that the first item on the agenda                                                                
was a presentation by members of the Port of Bellingham.                                                                        
MR. JIM DARLING, Executive Director, Port of Bellingham, introduced                                                             
Ginny Benton, elected Port Commissioner and President of the Board,                                                             
Scott Walker, Port Commissioner and immediate past president, Mike                                                              
Stoner, Port Environmental Manager, and John Carter, Director of                                                                
Marine Terminals and CFO. Mr. Darling noted this is his tenth trip                                                              
to Juneau to update Alaska Marine Highway System officials and the                                                              
Legislature.  The Port of Bellingham is about ready to begin the                                                                
second decade of its contract with the State of Alaska.  That                                                                   
contract is more than just a vendor relationship - the Port of                                                                  
Bellingham views the arrangement as a partnership.  The community                                                               
of Bellingham has invested in its new transportation terminal, in                                                               
capital dollars, about half of the cost of one of the new proposed                                                              
fast vehicle ferries.  Most of those investment dollars have come                                                               
from taxes.  Bellingham considers itself Alaska's "front porch."                                                                
About one percent of the students at Western Washington University                                                              
(WWU) are from Alaska.  The Port of Bellingham and WWU have a                                                                   
program to track the future occupations of those students and will                                                              
report that information to the Legislature.  WWU's sense is that                                                                
most students are returning to Alaska after they have completed                                                                 
their degrees.  The Port of Bellingham also has a connection with                                                               
Peace Health, which is a medical organization based in the Seattle                                                              
area.  Peace Health operates St. Joe's hospital in Bellingham and                                                               
it has a relationship with the hospital in Ketchikan.                                                                           
Number 269                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN WARD announced the arrival of Senator Pearce.                                                                          
MR. JOHN CARTER discussed terminal enhancements.  A number of years                                                             
ago, Amtrak service was made available 100 yards from the terminal.                                                             
That service has been so successful, the State of Washington and                                                                
the federal government, who funded that effort, have added a second                                                             
train.  The ultimate goal is to have four trains running to and                                                                 
from Seattle every day.  Interstate bus service is provided in that                                                             
same terminal, as well as Bellingham's commercial airfield, which                                                               
offers 17 flights per day to the Seattle area.  At the ferry                                                                    
terminal itself, other vessels are providing services to the San                                                                
Juan Islands and providing adventure trips, such as kayaking.  The                                                              
Port of Bellingham has just begun some building renovations on the                                                              
terminal, expected to cost about $1 million over the next 12                                                                    
months.  Those renovations will accommodate the facility's                                                                      
increasing popularity as a place to hold wedding receptions and                                                                 
other community events.  Last, the Port of Bellingham has started                                                               
an initiative to increase fiber optics and conductivity for                                                                     
MR. DARLING pointed out that the ferry terminal in Bellingham is an                                                             
icon for the community that attracts many visitors.  The Port is                                                                
very active: it operates the airport, it has increased charter                                                                  
service to the sunbelt from Bellingham, and it is discussing                                                                    
attracting charter flights to Alaska.  The Port has also begun a                                                                
waterfront development project named "Bellwater on the Bay" across                                                              
the bay from the ferry terminal.  It is a new destination hotel and                                                             
office with high technology and fiber optics connections for job                                                                
improvements in Whatcom County.                                                                                                 
MR. DARLING commented that the Port is faced with two challenges.                                                               
First, salmon has been listed as an endangered species, which will                                                              
impact waterfront development projects in Whatcom County.  Second,                                                              
I-695 passed.  That initiative reduced the car registration fee to                                                              
$30.  That will not affect the Port's funding because it gets no                                                                
funding from the State of Washington.  However, as a municipality,                                                              
Bellingham may be affected because that initiative requires that                                                                
any new fees, charges or taxes will have to be voted on by the                                                                  
public.  The municipality is now sorting through the legal                                                                      
translation of that provision to determine whether it will apply to                                                             
landing fees, moorage rates, rents, etc.                                                                                        
MR. DARLING informed committee members that the Port of Bellingham                                                              
is managing one of the keynote projects for the year 2000 through                                                               
the Puget Sound Ports Group, a working group of the seven deep-                                                                 
water ports in Washington.                                                                                                      
MR. SCOTT WALKER, a member of the Puget Sound Ports Group,                                                                      
recounted a story about the Port of Tacoma.  The Port of Tacoma                                                                 
wanted to recruit new business with Hyundai, a car manufacturing                                                                
company, but was unable to make any workable arrangement because of                                                             
tax situations surrounding the port.  The Port of Tacoma had                                                                    
historical tribal lands in the area.  It sold part of the Port's                                                                
land to a local tribe who, because of its tribal status, has                                                                    
certain powers that enabled it to negotiate and come to an                                                                      
agreement with Hyundai.  He noted that ports and tribes are alike                                                               
in many ways.  Tribes have special federal powers; ports were given                                                             
special powers through state enabling legislation passed in 1920.                                                               
Both have land.  The Puget Sound Ports Group is hosting the first                                                               
port-tribal cooperation seminar next fall to learn about each other                                                             
and ways they can cooperate in economic development.                                                                            
CHAIRMAN WARD noted that Senator Lincoln was present.                                                                           
MR. DARLING distributed the Port of Bellingham's annual newsletter.                                                             
He stated that things are going well between the Port and the                                                                   
Alaska Marine Highway System.  Rider numbers are up and the                                                                     
intermodal nature of the terminal makes it more valuable to the                                                                 
traveling public.  He thanked committee members for their time.                                                                 
Number 960                                                                                                                      
        EO 101 - RELOCATE HIGHWAY SAFETY PLANNING AGENCY                                                                        
MR. TOM BRIGHAM, Director of the Division of Statewide Planning,                                                                
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF), stated                                                              
Executive Order 101 addresses three main reasons why the Highway                                                                
Safety Planning Agency is a good fit with DOTPF.  First, under                                                                  
ISTEA and T 21, sanctions are provided in the law that relate to                                                                
compliance with safety programs.  Those sanctions affect the                                                                    
federal funding received by DOTPF for highway programs.  Second,                                                                
DOTPF already collects a fair amount of accident and safety data                                                                
required by the Federal Highway Administration.  DOTPF believes it                                                              
makes sense to combine its data collection and reporting activities                                                             
with those of the Highway Safety Planning Agency.  Third, DOTPF                                                                 
also sponsors safety initiatives.  DOTPF would like to coordinate                                                               
all of the safety related programs within DOTPF.  The relocation                                                                
will not create any changes in terms of personnel costs.                                                                        
SENATOR LINCOLN asked if personnel will transfer over to DOTPF but                                                              
that no costs will be involved.                                                                                                 
MR. BRIGHAM said that is correct.                                                                                               
SENATOR LINCOLN asked how many people will transfer.                                                                            
MR. BRIGHAM replied three people.                                                                                               
There were no further questions about EO 101, therefore the                                                                     
committee took up SJR 38.                                                                                                       
          SJR 38-ALASKA CANADA RAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY                                                                           
MS. KARA MORIARTY, legislative aide to Senator Wilken, sponsor of                                                               
SJR 38, explained that the measure expresses support for a                                                                      
cooperative United States-Canada feasibility study on extending the                                                             
North American rail system through British Columbia and the Yukon                                                               
to Alaska.  SJR 38 came about as a result of a conference held in                                                               
Vancouver in January, sponsored by Representative Jeanette James                                                                
who has sponsored companion legislation in the House, HJR 51.  At                                                               
the conference, government officials from both the United States                                                                
and Canada, business leaders, mining and transportation specialists                                                             
and other consultants met to discuss the concept of extending the                                                               
North American rail system through Canada to Alaska.  They                                                                      
discussed the benefits of a safe, reliable, cost-efficient and                                                                  
environmentally friendly railroad link and formulated support for                                                               
the completion of a feasibility study to look over the costs and                                                                
effects of this project.  The feasibility study is the first step                                                               
in beginning the process of connecting the North American rail                                                                  
system to Alaska.  Senator Frank Murkowski supports a bilateral                                                                 
commission made up of representatives from both the United States                                                               
and Canada to provide an in-depth study that would talk about the                                                               
best route, engineering and construction costs, and other potential                                                             
freight and passenger loads.  Senator Murkowski has drafted                                                                     
legislation to authorize the bilateral commission, which should be                                                              
introduced in Congress within one to two weeks.  If it passes, it                                                               
will then go to the Canadian government for approval.  The                                                                      
Fairbanks Industrial Development Corporation supports SJR 38, as                                                                
does the Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC).                                                                                    
MS. PAM LABOLLE, President of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce,                                                             
stated support for SJR 38.  The State Chamber helped host the                                                                   
conference in Vancouver.  Participants were very enthusiastic about                                                             
the potential economic development that may occur in Alaska,                                                                    
British Columbia, and the Yukon should this project come to                                                                     
fruition.  The State Chamber is very committed to any project that                                                              
will further economic development in Alaska, and asks the                                                                       
Legislature to support this resolution.                                                                                         
There being no further discussion or questions, SENATOR MILLER                                                                  
moved SJR 38 out of committee with individual recommendations.                                                                  
There being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                   
           SB 235-APPROVING TRANSFER OF RAILROAD LAND                                                                           
SENATOR LOREN LEMAN, sponsor of SB 235, informed committee members                                                              
that SB 235 authorizes the ARRC to enter into several land                                                                      
exchanges needed for a railroad track upgrade and realignment                                                                   
project between the Port of Anchorage and Wasilla.  The first phase                                                             
of the project will upgrade tracks as far as the Eagle River bridge                                                             
and includes lands held by the military on Elmendorf Air Force Base                                                             
and Ft. Richardson, the Municipality of Anchorage, and Eklutna,                                                                 
Inc.  One other parcel to be exchanged, north of Seward, is held by                                                             
the State of Alaska.                                                                                                            
The benefits of the track upgrade project, which ARRC estimates to                                                              
cost $45 to $60 million, will be decreased travel time between                                                                  
Anchorage and Wasilla which could result in commuter travel between                                                             
the two cities, and a safer track.  Some of the existing track has                                                              
very sharp curves which the train must take at a slower speed.  The                                                             
track upgrade is also expected to reduce maintenance costs and                                                                  
could eventually result in reduced traffic on the Glenn Highway.                                                                
All parties are working together to come to an agreement on the                                                                 
land transfer and he has encouraged them to work out any remaining                                                              
minor differences so that the project can proceed.                                                                              
SENATOR LEMAN noted that the Alaska Visitors' Association, the                                                                  
Chambers of Commerce of Palmer and Wasilla, the City of Wasilla,                                                                
the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, the Matanuska-                                                                  
Susitna Commission and Visitors Bureau, and the Anchorage                                                                       
Convention and Visitors Bureau support the bill.  He proposed a                                                                 
committee substitute that contains a few technical changes in the                                                               
land descriptions.                                                                                                              
SENATOR PEARCE moved to adopt CSSB 235 (TRA) in lieu of the                                                                     
original bill.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR LINCOLN objected and asked for a description of the changes                                                             
made in the committee substitute.                                                                                               
MR. MIKE PAULEY, aide to Senator Leman, explained that the first                                                                
change is on page 2, lines 1-5.  New language was inserted after                                                                
the word "Eklutna, Inc." to more accurately describe the specific                                                               
lands that will be exchanged between ARRC and Eklutna.  The initial                                                             
legislation was not specific and the language as written could have                                                             
authorized a transfer of any land owned by Eklutna, Inc. to ARRC.                                                               
The second change was made on page 2, line 18.  The amount of                                                                   
acreage was increased from 225 acres to 227 acres as the result of                                                              
a reassessment which indicated that 227 acres was the more accurate                                                             
CHAIRMAN WARD noted that representatives from ARRC and Eklutna,                                                                 
Inc. were available via teleconference for questions.                                                                           
CHAIRMAN WARD asked Bill Stoltz to present the amendment proposed                                                               
by Senator Halford.                                                                                                             
MR. BILL STOLTZ, legislative aide to Senator Halford, noted Senator                                                             
Halford's amendment deals with three property owners in the                                                                     
Birchwood Loop area whose concerns were presented through the                                                                   
Birchwood Community Council.  Two of the property owners are                                                                    
considered pioneer residents in Birchwood who moved there about the                                                             
time the road was built.  The third property owner is a long time                                                               
resident.  According to ARRC personnel, if land is not transferred                                                              
to these individuals, it will revert to BLM.                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN WARD asked if Senator Halford's amendment is supported by                                                              
ARRC and acknowledged that ARRC staff were nodding in agreement.                                                                
SENATOR LINCOLN asked if anyone else had signed up to testify to                                                                
the amendment.                                                                                                                  
CHAIRMAN WARD said no one has signed up.                                                                                        
WENDY LINDSKOOG, ARRC, verified that ARRC supports Senator                                                                      
Halford's amendment.                                                                                                            
SENATOR PEARCE moved to adopt Senator Halford's amendment (labeled                                                              
I.2) which reads as follows.                                                                                                    
     "APPROVAL OF THE TRANSFER OF CERTAIN REAL PROPERTY WITHIN THE                                                              
     MUNICIPALITY OF ANCHORAGE.  (a)  Contingent upon the approval                                                              
     of the conveyance of affected municipal park land by the                                                                   
     voters of the Municipality of Anchorage, the Alaska Railroad                                                               
     Corporation is authorized to convey the corporation's entire                                                               
     interest in                                                                                                                
          (1)  approximately 4.5 acres of railroad utility corridor                                                             
     between railroad mileposts 133 and 134, within Township 15                                                                 
     North, Range 2 West, Sections 13 and 24, Seward Meridian, to                                                               
     the Municipality of Anchorage in exchange for the conveyance                                                               
     of approximately 13.6 acres of land in the same vicinity to                                                                
     the corporation by the Municipality of Anchorage;                                                                          
          (2)  approximately 5.1 acres of railroad utility corridor                                                             
     between railroad mileposts 133 and 134, within Township 15                                                                 
     North, Range 2 West, Sections 13 and 24, Seward Meridian, to                                                               
     Richard and Carol Drebert, Harry and Simone Thomson, and                                                                   
     Richard Moore or their personal representatives, successors,                                                               
     or assigns; each to receive that portion of the railroad                                                                   
     utility corridor immediately adjacent to their respective                                                                  
     parcels of land."                                                                                                          
There being no objection, Senator Halford's amendment was adopted.                                                              
SENATOR MILLER moved CSSB 235(TRA) from committee with individual                                                               
SENATOR LINCOLN asked if anyone else signed up to testify.                                                                      
CHAIRMAN WARD said there is not.                                                                                                
There being no objection, the motion to moved CSSB 235(TRA) from                                                                
committee carried.                                                                                                              
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
CHAIRMAN WARD adjourned the meeting.                                                                                            

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