The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (AKDOT&PF) has issued the Draft STIP 2024-27. STIP stands for State Transportation Improvement Plan. Per federal law, transportation improvement projects on the STIP should reflect priorities set by each area of the state.
In his August 15, 2023 blog post, Dermot Cole notes that it appears many projects in the latest STIP have been added “from the top down” and not through working with local organizations to determine which projects are highest priority. Specifically, five bridge replacements and several passing lane projects that support the Kinross ore haul have been accelerated and given high priority. All while the official DOT Alaska Richardson Steese Highways Corridor Study is still underway.
Jackson Fox, executive director of of the Fairbanks Area Surface Transportation (FAST) planning agency, notes that the version of the plan now out for public comment “appears to have been developed internally without meaningful input from stakeholders throughout the state.”
Fox notes on page 11 of his draft review letter that “While FAST Planning supports all of these projects, we are concerned Alaska DOT&PF is making planning decisions and spending large amounts of funding without the input of the Transportation Advisory Committee. The main role of the Committee is to recommend policy goals and investment priorities, address the impacts (safety and mobility) of increased corridor usage, and provide recommendations on needs, infrastructure improvements, route alternatives, additional studies, policy/law changes, and funding/partnership opportunities. This work has not yet been accomplished, however, by the Committee, which is tasked with producing a Corridor Action Plan by the end of the year. The concern is the Committee’s recommended investment priorities and proposed infrastructure improvements in the Plan may differ greatly from the list of projects shown in the STIP. For example, at their last meeting on July 26 the Committee discussed mitigation strategies and projects to improve safety at the school bus stops along the Corridor, which is not addressed by the current list of projects in the STIP. In addition, in a presentation by Alaska DOT&PF to the Committee they learned that three of the five bridges have nearly 25 years left of fatigue life even with the ore haul occurring over the next five years. The Alaska DOT&PF’s consultant, Kinney Engineering, also noted an anticipated $10 million per year increase in additional maintenance costs from the wear and tear of the ore haul trucks, but this has not been addressed in the STIP. FAST Planning therefore asks Alaska DOT&PF to better engage with the Committee to align any new projects in the STIP with their Corridor Action Plan, which will be drafted later this year for public review and comment.”
According to Cole, “the state added $300 million in projects to support the Kinross ore-hauling plan, but has not consulted with the state Transportation Advisory Committee set up by the Dunleavy administration to analyze the potential impacts of the trucking plan on road safety and infrastructure.”
The public comment period on the STIP is open until Sunday, September 3, 2023.
You may comment on the Draft 2024-2027 STIP in a variety of ways: online at www.dot.alaska.gov/stip, via text message at 855-925-2801, or voice mail at 855-925-2801, enter Pin 2191, and leave a message.