SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

President Signs Long-Term Highway Bill: Alaska stands to receive more than $2.6 billion


December 09, 2015
Wednesday AM

(SitNews) - The legislation providing funding for our nation’s surface transportation needs over the next five years, from highways to ferries and railroads was signed by President Obama on December 04, 2015 becoming Public Law #114-94.

Known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, FAST will provide annual increases in funding over a five year period which means that Alaska stands to receive more than $2.6 billion from Fiscal Years (FY) 2016-2020. This amounts to $281 million or 10.6% increase above current levels.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was a member of the surface transportation conference committee and able to negotiate the differences between both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate versions of the bill. Through this leadership position, Murkowski was able to give Alaska’s interests and priorities a voice at the negotiating table, and help retain provisions secured by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) as a member of both the Environment and Public Works Committee and Commerce Committee, and Congressman Don Young (R-AK) as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Alaska has unique transportation needs and challenges—whether it be due to our state’s vast size, remoteness, difficult terrain, or harsh climate. Because of this, it’s imperative that we have the certainty that comes with a long-term transportation funding bill,” said Murkowski. “We all recognize that Alaska is in the midst of budget crisis, so being able to rely on federal funding for critical infrastructure projects, whether it be on roads, bridges, or ferries, is key to our state. I’m proud that with the FAST Act, we have a five year bill with stable funding - the longest time period for transportation funding that Congress has secured in seventeen years.”

“Passage of a long-term highway bill will provide Alaskans with much-needed certainty in infrastructure investments throughout our state,” Senator Sullivan said.

Sullivan said, “Building off Congressman Young’s work as a past chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Senator Murkowski’s position on the Surface Transportation Conference Committee, combined with my position on both the Environment and Public Works and Commerce Committees, we were able to secure a number of Alaska-specific provisions that will increase transportation funding for core highway programs, tribal transportation and the ferry system that are so vital to Alaska’s economic future. The bill also includes reforms to our permitting system, which will help cut through project-killing red tape and streamline regulatory burdens. This bill amounts to a big win for Alaska as it will allow us to not only address our infrastructure needs but also promote and sustain economic growth throughout the state.”

The FAST Act contains numerous Alaska-focused provisions championed by the Alaska delegation. Alaska-specific provisions included in the five year transportation bill include:

Ferry Program Funding: The bill increases funding for the ferry system from $67 million to $80 million a year, which translates into $18.6 million for ferries in Alaska. This is an increase from $18.2 million provided in MAP-21 and will be an increase of $2.4 million over the five year period FY 2016-2020.

Tongass Easements: Language within this bill clarifies a provision in the SAFETEA-LU transportation bill to ensure that reciprocal easements and rights-of-way in the Tongass National Forest will be granted between the state of Alaska and the U.S. Forest Service. This will benefit road and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Alaska.

Alaska Railroad: The bill fixes a technical mistake from MAP-21, the previous transportation bill, which shortchanged funding to the Alaska Railroad. Congressman Don Young included that provision in the House version of the bill, and Senator Murkowski was able to secure it in the final version during the conference process.

Federal Freight Program: The legislation creates a new federal Freight Program, and Alaska will receive $80 million in funding over the five year period.

Tribal Transportation Program: Funding for the Tribal Transportation program increases by $15 million in the first year, growing by $10 million each year thereafter. The bill also decreases administrative expenses and establishes a tribal transportation self-governance program at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Waiver for Congestion Mitigation Program: The FAST Act will provide flexibility for transportation funds under the air quality program with respect to states with low population densities, freeing up funds to be spent on local priority projects rather than compliance fees. This is important for communities such as Fairbanks.

Regulatory Relief/Permitting Reform Provisions: This bill improves and streamlines environmental review processes to help lower costs and reduce delays in essential safety projects.

Positive Train Control: In October 2015, Congress extended the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) for three years. The FAST Act provides new tools to finance the implementation of Positive Train Control.

Alaska Congressman Don Young, former Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, offered the following statement after House passage of H.R. 22 on December 3rd, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

Young said, “The last time Congress passed a long-term transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, I was Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Since then, we have limped along with short-term extension after short-term extension, robbing our states and localities of the certainty they depend on to repair and expand our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. I proudly worked with Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio to break this cycle by producing this meaningful long-term package. This bill, which represents negotiations between the House and Senate, is by no means perfect. However, it makes a number of important reforms and improvements to give states and localities added flexibility, to streamline duplicative permitting processes, to refocus significant resources on moving freight, and to maintain a strong commitment to safety."

“The success of any state’s economy directly depends on their ability to move people and products safely and efficiently. That is especially true in a developing and geographically unique state like ours, which is why I worked so hard to secure numerous provisions specifically beneficial to Alaskans – including $31 million annually for the Alaska Railroad, ample funding for our ferry program, and significant increases for the Tribal Transportation Program. Showing the power of a united Alaskan delegation, together Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan and I were able to secure these and other provisions for the betterment of our state and people. Overall, Alaska will see an increase of $281 million compared to our current transportation funding levels.”

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act was passed by a vote of 83-16 in the U.S. Senate and with a vote of 359-65 by the House on December 03, 2015.



Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan

Congressman Don Young


Publish A Letter in SitNews

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2015
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

 Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews may be protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.