Stevens explains what's included
in Highway Bill for Alaska
May 18, 2005
Tuesday the United States Senate passed H.R. 3, the Safe Accountable,
Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 (SAFETEA)
or the Highway Bill. The legislation includes significant
provisions which effect Alaska including funds for the National
Park Service roads, an increase in the funding for the Alaska-Canadian
Highway as well as the Alaska Marine Highway System, and the
Denali Commission. The bill also includes the Surface Transportation
Safety Improvement Act of 2005 which includes items that pertain
Upon passage of the bill Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) stated "the
Federal Government has undertaken the enormous task of building
the transportation infrastructure in the Lower 48. This
trillion dollar investment provided the impetus for America's
economic growth and facilitated our nation's interstate commerce."
"Our state lacks the same infrastructure as the rest
of the nation. We have more than 365 million acres of land,
representing 1/5th of the size of the United States; however,
we have only 13,485 miles of roads! This is just a fraction
of the 3.5 million miles of paved road nationwide. This bill
will help build Alaska's roads and infrastructure," he further
Stevens said Alaska shall now receive 3% of the funds available
for National Park Service roads, approximately a 1% increase
in funding from the current law. The funds available for
National Park Service roads nationally are $320 million for FY05
and $330 million for FY06 through FY09. This equates to
$9.6 million in FY05 and $9.9 million for FY06 through FY09 for
Alaska is home to 13 National Parks which cover more than 54
million acres. This represents 61% of the total acreage
in the entire National Park system in the United States.
Alaska has just 24.3 miles of paved road and 87.5 miles of unpaved
roads in the National Park system in Alaska. These roads
stretch through Denali National Park, Glacier Bay National Park,
Katmai National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park and Wrangell-St.
Elias National Park.
"Alaskans lack sufficient funding for roads to access our
national parks. Of the hundreds of million of dollars annually
appropriated for national park system roads, Alaska has only
received 2% of that funding, despite the fact that the majority
of national parks are in Alaska!" said Stevens. "Most
of Alaska's parks are not accessible by road and do not have
airports, severely restricting visitor access. The national
parks were created for public enjoyment, not only for those who
can afford to charter a plane to visit them."
Senator Stevens submitted an amendment increasing the amount
of funding that the Alaska-Canadian Highway receives. Senator
Lisa Murkowski initially secured $18.8 million for the Alaska-Canadian
Highway. Senator Stevens' amendment increases the annual
funding to $30 million per year for FY05-FY09.
Originally constructed in 1942 by the Army Corps of Engineers
as part of our nation's defense in World War II, the Alaska-Canadian
Highway has 1,488 miles of paved and unpaved roads that begin
in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and end in Delta Junction,
Alaska. Per the treaty between the United States and Canada,
the United States pays for construction of the highway while
Canada pays for the operation and maintenance.
Senator Stevens was also able to secure $10.4 million for FY05,
and $15 million for FY06-FY09, an increase in Alaska Marine Highway
and Hawaii ferry capital project funds from the $10.4 million
per year supported by Senator Murkowski in last year's Highway
Stevens also secured $5 million for the Denali Commission for
FY06-FY09 in order to provide for docks and waterfront development.
"The Denali Commission remains an important tool in building
infrastructure in Alaska. With one-half the coastline
in the United States and an immense river and waterway system,
Alaska is in desperate need of docks and waterfront development
in order to help our rural communities survive and prosper,"
said the Senator.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation,
which Senator Stevens chairs, has jurisdiction over the highway
and hazardous material transportation safety programs administered
by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA); the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); and the
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
within the Department of Transportation. The Committee
also has jurisdiction over rail, intermodel, and boating safety
The following are key aspects of that section of the bill:
Seat Belt Safety: A new program, the Occupant Protection Incentive
Grants (Section 405) is a national program of $154 million annually
which will be distributed to states that enact a new primary
seat belt law or already have enacted a primary seat belt law.
States that enact a primary seat belt law after December 31,
2002, would receive a one-time grant over the life of the bill
equal to 500 percent of their fiscal year 2003 Section 402 grant.
The majority of this grant money may be used for highway safety
The Alaska State Legislature has not passed a primary seat belt
law. Prior to the adjournment of the of the regular
session the primary seatbelt law, which had previously passed the
Alaska State House of Representatives, was brought up under reconsideration. The
Alaska House adjourned its regular session before the bill could
be voted on again. If this law is enacted Alaska would
stand to gain up to $3.9 million. According to 2003 statistics
an average of more than 39,000 Alaskans were involved in motor
vehicle crashes every year and according to the Alaska Injury
Prevention Center, more than $2.6 million in public funds is
spent each year for unbuckled victims of motor vehicle crashes.
The 1995 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
study "Safety Belt Use Laws: An Evaluation of Primary Enforcement
and Other Provisions" showed that states with primary enforcement
laws have significantly higher safety belt usage than states
with secondary laws.
Impaired Driving: The bill reauthorizes the Impaired Driving
Program at an average annual funding level of $132 million for
Fiscal Years 2006-2009. States can qualify for a grant by enacting
four out of the seven criteria in FY06 and FY07, and by enacting
five out of the following seven criteria in FY08 and FY09.
States may choose from the following options: (1) impaired driving
check points and saturation controls; (2) outreach to judges
and prosecutors to improve prosecution of drunk driving cases;
(3) creation of an information system for government use that
tracks drunk driving arrests and convictions; (4) the reduction,
for two years in a row, the percentage of fatally-injured drivers
with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent; (5) a program that
returns fines from drunk drivers to local communities for use
in comprehensive programs to prevent drunk driving; (6) enact
a law that applies stronger sanctions against drunk drivers convicted
of having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or higher;
and (7) creation of specialized courts for handling only impaired
driving cases. The 10 states with the highest rate of impaired
driving fatalities will be eligible for an additional grant.
In Alaska the percentage of alcohol related deaths and actual
number of alcohol related deaths peaked in 1984 at 64% and 105
fatalities respectively. Since then, the drunk driving
deaths have shown a downward trend in both percentage and number
as the total number of alcohol related fatalities was 35 and
the percentage of all motor vehicle fatalities was 37% in 2003,
which is slightly better than the national average of 40%.
Hazardous Materials Shipment: The Pipeline and Hazardous
Materials Safety Administration is responsible for administering
hazardous materials transportation programs. The bill improves
safety and security associated with the transportation of hazardous
materials by increasing the funding available for planning and
training grants. The bill authorizes $25 million in FY05,
$29 million in FY06, and $30 million each for FY07 through FY09.
The bill also allows for training grants to train private
sector employees who handle hazardous materials.
Boating Safety and Sportfish Restoration: Title V reauthorizes
the Recreational Boating Safety and Sport Fish Restoration programs,
two of the Nation's most effective "user-pay, user-benefit"
programs, which are permanently funded through the "Wallop-Breaux"
trust fund, also known as the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund.
The reauthorizations will allow continued funding for activities
that will improve boating safety, protect coastal wetlands, promote
sport fish restoration, reduce water quality impacts from recreational
vessels, and increase boating access.
In addition, the title renames the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund
as the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund and increases
the federal match for boating safety grants to 3:1, and provides
for more equitable annual distribution of the funds to the various
programs by assigning each a percentage share of revenues deposited
into the fund. The Sport Fishing Restoration Account receives
approximately $450 million annually, and the Boating Safety Account
receives approximately $70 million annually.
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