State of Alaska regulations limit industrial use of public roads, and the regular routes used by Long Combination Vehicles (LCVs). These are vehicles longer than 75 feet in length. An in-depth review of these regulations by Barbara Schuhmann has discovered that not one of the roads Kinross plans to use is designated for industrial use.
Key points are:
• LCVs are not currently allowed on Peger Road, the Johansen Expressway and the Steese Highway beyond the Elliott Highway junction.
• Any industrial use designation is “dependent upon” an Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (AKDOTP&F) study of multiple factors. An entity wishing to have a public road designated as such must file a formal request and plan on paying for any needed improvements to the route to accommodate its industrial use.
• The state can repeal a designation upon a finding that continued industrial use of the route is not in the public interest.
State Regulations Limit Industrial Use of Highways
By Barbara Schuhmann
Maybe you’ve heard the argument: “The roads are for everyone to use.” That’s not entirely true. Not every vehicle or use is allowed everywhere. Some – like the industrial vehicles Kinross proposes to use for its Tetlin to Fort Knox ore haul – must be specially permitted and the roads designated for industrial use.
At least two sets of Alaska regulations limit use of Alaska’s public roads by large or heavy vehicles.
The first (17 AAC 25.014) limits the regular routes of Long Combination Vehicles (longer than 75’) to the roads listed in the regulation. These are usually outside urban centers: the Parks, Mitchell, Richardson and Steese up to the Elliott. Regular LCV routes do not include Peger Road, Johansen, or the Steese beyond the Elliott junction. But all three are proposed for Kinross’s ore haul regular route. An LCV can move off the approved roads only if accessing or returning from terminals or facilities for fuel, servicing, delivering or receiving cargo, or food or rest for the vehicle’s operator. Kinross’s rock is not “cargo.” The state first needs to change its regulation to add Peger, Johansen, and Steese north of the Elliott, before they can be LCV regular routes.
The second, 17 AAC, chapter 35, “Toll Highways,” wisely requires different treatment for industrial road use (like Kinross’s ore haul) than for personal or commercial use. The AKDOT&PF can, by regulation, designate a specified highway as an industrial use highway if it can accommodate long or heavy loads. Long or heavy vehicles then must obtain permits to use the industrial highway. 17 AAC 35.010 (a)-(b). None of the roads Kinross plans to use is designated for industrial use.
To obtain an industrial use designation for its route, Kinross must petition the commissioner, in writing. The petition must include: the proposed use that dictates designation for industrial use, the condition of the facilities; design changes and improvements needed and their cost; the economic, environmental and social impact of such a designation; how much such use and designation will improve the general welfare of the people of the state; and various means of financing the cost of the facility changes necessary. 17 AAC 35.010(c). Kinross has yet to request an industrial designation for the roads it wants to use.
Any industrial use designation is “dependent upon” an AKDOT&PF study of: (1) the ability of the route to handle the loads, (2) the safety of the long or heavy loads and their impact upon users of the route, (3) design changes necessary, maintenance operations requirements, traffic engineering including the location and proposed design of vehicle pullouts, passing lanes, and other improvements for the route, (4) the economic, environmental, and social impact and the degree to which designation as an industrial use highway will improve the general welfare of the people of the state, and (5) the various means of financing the costs of the changes to the route to enable it to accommodate long or heavy loads. 17 AAC 35.010(d). The state can make the road length and weight limits more stringent. And it can repeal a designation upon a finding that continued industrial use of the route is not in the public interest. 17 AAC 35.010(e) and (f).
After an industrial designation, a permit is required for vehicles over regular lengths and weights. 17 AAC 35.020. The permit application requires disclosure of information the public has asked Kinross to provide: the vehicles to be used, horsepower rating, number of axles, braking power, the GVW, length and load for each vehicle, the number of movements, and additional information requested by the department. 17 AAC 35.030. The AKDOT&PF can either grant or deny the permit, and impose limitations in the state’s best interests, including to ensure safety of other users of the route and to require that operations occur during off-peak hours. The permit is valid for 365 days unless some shorter period is stated.
The permit can be revoked for non-payment of fees; or if vehicle operations are not as specified in the permit, cause excessive damage to the roadway, or represent an unacceptable risk to other users; or if continued use is not in the state’s best interest. A permit fee “will be” charged based upon each vehicle Equivalent Axle Load, calculated to offset the state’s costs to maintain the roadway surface and structures to accommodate the loads, and administrative permitting costs. 17 AAC 35.040 -.050.
State regulations limit industrial use of public roads, and regular routes of long combination vehicles. Kinross should follow the state’s regulatory scheme and request designation of its route for industrial use, and plan on paying for any needed improvements to the route to accommodate its industrial use. Before designating new roads as LCV regular routes or any roads for industrial use, the state should follow its regulations. Because Kinross’s plan presents unacceptable safety risks to other users and to the state’s road and bridge infrastructure, its proposed ore haul should not be permitted on Alaska’s public highways and streets.