STATEMENT OF

MARY E. PETERS, ADMINISTRATOR

FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION

U. S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

BEFORE THE

COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS

SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION, INFRASTRUCTURE, AND NUCLEAR SAFETY

UNITED STATES SENATE

HEARING IN RENO, NEVADA

AUGUST 8, 2002

 

Mr. Chairman, it is truly a pleasure to be here in Nevada today. This is an appropriate setting for discussing the Federal Lands Highway Program (FLHP). Federal and Tribal lands account for approximately 31 percent of the United States and the greater part of these lands is located in the thirteen western-most States. As you know, Federally-owned lands constitute a greater percentage of total land area in Nevada than is the case in any other State.

Through FLHP funding, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) works in cooperation with the Federal land management agencies, Tribal governments, and State and local transportation agencies to provide access to and within Federal and Tribal lands. Our goal is to create the best transportation system possible in balance with the environmental and cultural values of Federal and Tribal lands. I appreciate this opportunity to report to you on some of the accomplishments of the FLHP under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).

 

BACKGROUND

Transportation is critical to the quality of life of Native Americans and other residents on Tribal and Federal lands. Moreover, Federal and Tribal lands have many uses, including grazing, timber harvesting, mineral extraction, energy production, and wilderness and wildlife protection; but tourism and recreation are the largest and fastest growing uses. The economies of many western States and local communities are dependent on tourists. Safe and sufficient transportation access to and within Federal and Tribal lands is essential to providing a positive experience and encouraging repeat visits.

The Federal lands highway system comprises 96,130 miles of public roads and almost 10,000 bridges and tunnels. A substantial number of the nation’s All American Roads and National Scenic Byways are part of the Federal lands highway system. There are also approximately 510,000 miles of Federal public and non-public administrative and land access management roads and trails which connect to the Federal lands highway system, but which are owned by the Federal land management agencies and the Department of Defense and are not eligible for funding under the FLHP.

Congress created the FLHP as part of the 1982 Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The Act brought together for the first time a consolidated and coordinated long-range funded program for Federal lands highways. The Federal Lands Highway Office administers the program through memoranda of agreement with our Federal partners that define the roles and responsibilities of each agency.

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), followed by TEA-21, expanded requirements of the FLHP; enhanced flexibility of the program, including eligibility of transit facilities for funding; and increased program funding levels. TEA-21 authorized a total of $4.1 billion for the FLHP for FYs 1998-2003, to be distributed under five categories: Forest Highways, Public Lands Highways Discretionary (PLHD), Indian Reservation Roads (IRR), Park Roads and Parkways (PRP), and Refuge Roads. In FYs 1998-2002, about 66 percent of the FLHP funds were allocated to projects located in the thirteen western States that contain the majority of Federal and Tribal lands, as shown in the following table.

 

State

FLH Program

Funding in Millions

FY 1998 — 2002

Alaska

181

Arizona

362

California

193

Colorado

94

Hawaii

12

Idaho

81

Montana

165

Nevada

87

New Mexico

264

Oregon

131

Utah

74

Washington

106

Wyoming

127

   

Western State Total

1,877

Remaining 37 States

950

FOREST HIGHWAY PROGRAM

The Forest Highway program is the oldest funding category in the FLHP, originating in the Federal-Aid Road Act of 1916. The program serves 175 national Forests and Grasslands, and consists of 29,214 miles of road and 4,214 bridges. FHWA works through 41 tri-party agreements (FHWA, State, and Forest Service) to administer the Forest Highway program. TEA-21 made available $129 million in 1998 and $162 million per fiscal year for 1999-2003 for project funding under the Forest Highway Program.

Since TEA-21, a major emphasis of the Forest Service and FHWA has been in the transportation planning area. In FY 2002, FHWA has co-sponsored a series of six conferences with the U.S. Forest Service on "Innovative Approaches to Transportation–Planning, Partnerships, and Programs," designed to: (1) further increase awareness of Forest Service personnel of the resources available for their transportation needs; (2) increase awareness of the vital importance of building partnerships with gateway communities, State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), rural regional planning agencies, and Tribal governments; (3) share good practices in the areas of transportation planning, project financing, public involvement, and environmental stewardship and streamlining; and (4) promote greater integration in transportation planning activities conducted by the States, local transportation officials, and the Forest Service. Reno was the site of one of the conferences.

There are well over 100 Forest Highway projects in some level of development or construction at any given time in the West. Under TEA-21, $560 million have been allocated to these projects in the western States, which represents about 84 percent of the total expenditures under the program.

The major Forest Highway work in Nevada over the past few years has been road stabilization and erosion control on State Route 28 in the Lake Tahoe Basin and reconstruction of the Harrison Pass Road near Elko. Nevada receives about $2 million annually from the Forest Highway program and it has been divided nearly equally between these two projects.

 

PUBLIC LANDS HIGHWAY DISCRETIONARY PROGRAM (PLHD)

PLHD provides funding for transportation projects that are eligible under title 23; that are in a State containing Federal lands, Federal reservations, or Tribal lands; and that provide or improve access to Federal lands or Tribal lands. Funds are to be allocated by the Federal Highway Administrator, who is directed to give preference to applications from States that have at least three percent of the nation’s total Federal lands.

There have been many successes under this program since its inception. Since enactment of ISTEA, we have provided about $725 million (through FY 2002) for over 400 projects. The 13 western States have received the majority of funds allocated under this program, with Nevada receiving the largest amount of funding from the program over the past 20 years--$96.96 million out of $1.113 billion allocated.

PLHD has provided over $30 million since 1992 for major reconstruction of New Mexico Route 537 through the Jicarilla Indian Reservation, which has significantly improved access in this area, and enhanced economic development for the Reservation. We have also provided over $28 million since 1990 for numerous roadway reconstruction and rehabilitation projects to improve access in and around the National Mall in Washington, DC.

To date under TEA-21, $403 million have been made available for 246 PLHD projects. The Hoover Dam Bypass project, which is a joint project between Arizona and Nevada, has received $18 million of PLHD funds since FY 1999. Other PLHD projects in Nevada include $10 million for the Pahrump Valley Road, $10.5 million for US-50 and SR-28 in the Lake Tahoe area, $8 million for US-95 near Searchlight, and $4 million for the St. Rose Parkway in Clark County.

TEA-21 changes allow funding for administrative costs of Federal land management agencies in connection with public lands highways and costs of Federal land management agencies to conduct necessary transportation planning for Federal lands, where funding for the planning is not provided by other FLHP categories. Between $4-6 million per year have been allocated to Federal agencies under these provisions.

 

INDIAN RESERVATION ROAD PROGRAM (IRR)

TEA-21 reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to providing safe and efficient access to and within Tribal lands by authorizing $1.6 billion in IRR funding for fiscal years 1998-2003. Since the enactment of TEA-21, the IRR program has provided funding to construct or improve 2,000 miles of roads and 51 bridges. TEA-21 also strengthened the commitment of the Federal government to increasing the involvement of Tribal governments in transportation programming and planning.

As part of the TEA-21 requirements to develop transportation planning procedures, the FHWA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), in consultation with the Tribal governments, developed the AIndian Reservation Roads Program Transportation Planning Procedures and Guidelines,@ which is now available as interim guidance for transportation planning. FHWA conducted training on these planning procedures in cooperation with the BIA and Tribal Technical Assistance Program Centers.

Other actions taken, as a part of our TEA-21 implementation efforts to improve transportation for Tribal lands while increasing Tribal involvement in the process, include FHWA’s renewal of four Tribal Technical Assistance Program centers and establishment of three new ones to serve Tribes in Oklahoma, California, and Alaska. Also, the BIA established a self-governance pilot program wherein two self-governance Tribes receive IRR funds as part of their annual funding agreements.

One noteworthy project under the IRR program, also using PLHD funding, is the Walden Point Road Project for the Metlakatla Indian Community of Alaska. The project illustrates the diversity of the IRR program and successful program delivery through joint agency and Tribal efforts. The proposed 14-mile project will provide a safe and convenient transportation link between Metlakatla and the Ketchikan road system. The roadway will also tie into the Alaska DOT’s marine highway system via a planned ferry terminal facility at Annette Bay, the northern terminus of the Walden Point Road. Upon completion, this project will be part of a multi-modal transportation system that will replace a restricted travel service with a regular and safer commuter service. The FHWA’s Western Federal Lands Division has led delivery of this project with partners including the United States Pacific Command, the United States Alaskan Command, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, the Metlakatla Indian Community, the Alaska National Guard, and the BIA. The project has showcased the feasibility, benefits, and success of utilizing US-based training opportunities for the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training Program. The project will also improve the quality of life for the Metlakatla Indian Community by providing safe, convenient, and efficient multi-modal transportation linkage between Metlakatla and the Ketchikan road system.

Negotiated Rulemaking. TEA-21 directed the Secretary of the Interior to develop

an Indian Reservation Roads fund distribution formula and program procedures, using

negotiated rulemaking with Tribal governments. We understand that final review and coordination of the Department of the Interior proposed rule has been completed and it will be published shortly in the Federal Register.

A committee consisting of 29 Tribal representatives, 10 Department of Interior

representatives, and 3 FHWA representatives met between March 1999 and December

2001. Considerable time was spent in agreeing on one IRR funding distribution formula.

Some major unresolved issues remain, and will be discussed in the preamble of the

notice of proposed rulemaking. These include: use of IRR administrative

funds; delegation of plans, specifications, and estimates (PS&E) approval to Tribes;

process of obtaining IRR eligibility determinations; content of annual funding agreement;

contract support costs; profits/savings; advance payments; and procedure for Tribes

applying for emergency relief for Federally-owned roads (ERFO) funds and ERFO

eligibility determinations.

Federal and Tribal committee members will be conducting 12 informational meetings on the proposed program procedures and fund distribution formula during the 60-day comment period. After the comment period, the Committee plans to meet, evaluate comments, and draft the final program procedures and fund distribution formula.

Indian Reservation Roads Bridge Program (IRRBP). TEA-21 directed the Secretary of Transportation, in cooperation with the Secretary of the Interior, to establish a Nationwide Priority Program for improving or replacing deficient Indian Reservation Road bridges, using a set-aside of not less than $13 million of IRR funds per year.

After soliciting comments on project selection and fund allocation procedures, through meetings with Tribal representatives and a Federal Register Notice, the FHWA developed guidance for the Bridge Program that was published as an Interim Final Rule in July 1999. We followed up with training sessions on the Bridge Program and are working with the BIA and Tribal governments to maximize the number of bridges participating in the IRRBP.

To date, $27.6 million has been obligated for 51 bridge projects. Based on BIA plans, we expect to obligate an additional $18.3 million for another 40 bridge projects. Some of the supplemental IRR funds provided in fiscal years 2001 were allocated to Tribes and BIA regional offices to prepare plans for replacing deficient bridges. We anticipate that proposed projects for FY 2003 will fully utilize the remaining IRR bridge funds set-aside by TEA-21.

Tribal Government Involvement in the Federal-Aid Highway Program. Additional opportunities exist for Tribal governments to participate in the Federal-aid highway program as well as the IRR program. Tribes can use IRR planning funds to participate in metropolitan and statewide planning procedures for the Federal-aid program. TEA-21 requires States to consult with Tribal governments in development of the long-range transportation plan and the State Transportation Improvement Program.

FHWA Federal-aid division offices have consulted with Tribal governments on overall FHWA programs, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and historic preservation. In some States, Tribal/State Transportation summits and workshops have been held with the objective of improving intergovernmental relations and increasing Tribal governments’ capacity to manage transportation projects and programs.

 

PARK ROAD AND PARKWAYS PROGRAM

The Park Roads and Parkways (PRP) program provides funding for the planning, design, construction, or reconstruction of designated public roads that provide access to or within national parks, recreation areas, historic areas, and other units of the National Park Service. TEA-21 made available $115 million in 1998 and $165 million per fiscal year for 1999-2003 for project funding under the PRP Program.

FHWA and the NPS jointly administer the program and share project development responsibilities. FHWA undertakes a majority of the design, construction, and oversight work, while the NPS develops a priority program of projects and is responsible for planning, environment, and protection of NPS values.

Projects funded under TEA-21 through 2002 include $ 38 million at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, $44.2 million in construction on Yellowstone National Park roads, and $7 million on Glacier National Park roads.

Since the enactment of TEA-21, the NPS and FHWA have completed three out of six congressionally-mandated parkway completion projects. The completed projects are the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park Tunnel, and the Chickamauga-Chattanooga Route 27 Bypass in Georgia. In addition, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway is almost 99 percent complete.

The Alternative Transportation Program under the PRP program integrates all modes of travel within a park including transit, bicycle, pedestrian linkages, and automobiles. The PRP program has invested approximately $22 million in five alternative transportation pilot projects in Acadia National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Zion National Park.

The NPS and FHWA have also conducted Transportation Planning Seminars throughout the country and produced The National Park Service Transportation Planning Guidebook.

 

REFUGE ROADS PROGRAM

Refuge Roads is a new category established in the FLHP under TEA-21, with authorizations of $20 million a year for fiscal years 1999 through 2003. The program funds maintenance and improvement of public roads that provide access to or within a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The program is co-administered by FHWA and the U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). FHWA and the FWS signed a memorandum of agreement, and together have developed program procedures and a fund distribution methodology, selected projects, and developed transportation improvement programs.

Funds are to be allocated according to the relative needs of the various refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The formula for distributing the funding between the FWS Regions is based on four attributes of a Regional refuge road network: road inventory, roadway condition, traffic volumes, and traffic accident rates. In Nevada, projects are complete or underway in National Wildlife Refuges including Desert, Pahranagat/Ash Meadows, Ruby Lake, and Stillwater, to improve public access and enjoyment at these sites.

During fiscal years 2000 and 2001, the FHWA conducted a condition inventory of all refuge roads. The FWS regions use the condition information during project selection and for assessing future funding needs.

 

ADDITIONAL TEA-21 FLHP PROVISIONS

Federal Management Systems Regulation. TEA-21 requires the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of each appropriate Federal land management agency to develop safety, bridge, pavement and congestion management systems for roads funded under the FLHP.

The FHWA issued four Advance Notices of Public Rulemaking (ANPRM) in September 1999, one for each of the four Federal land management agencies (NPS, FS, BIA, FWS). In each of these four ANPRMs, the FHWA and the appropriate agencies solicited public comment on developing a rule to meet both transportation planning and management system issues. However, FHWA has decided to issue an NPRM addressing only the management systems and will address the transportation planning procedures at a later date. The NPRM is being prepared for publication later this year. The resulting management systems will serve to guide the agencies and Indian Tribes in making project selection and resource allocation decisions.

Study of Alternative Transportation Needs in National Parks and Related Public Lands. In section 3039, TEA-21 directed the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Interior, to undertake a comprehensive study of alternative transportation needs in national parks and related public lands managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. During the study, alternative transportation system needs were examined at 207 sites having likely transit needs over the next twenty years. Transit needs were identified at 118 of 169 NPS sites, 6 of 15 BLM sites, and 13 of 23 FWS sites. A summary report of the section 3039 Study was transmitted to Congress in November 2001.

After completion of the section 3039 study, the NPS, in consultation with its stakeholders, developed a five-year Alternate Transportation Plan aimed at improving existing alternative transportation systems and increasing the number of parks that are served by such systems. FLHP is currently working with the other Federal land management agencies to address their similar needs.

The NPS, in cooperation with the gateway community of Springdale, Utah, has implemented a significant transit project at Zion National Park. Park patrons utilize a shuttle bus system from a number of stops in Springdale, or from various points of interest in the Park, as the only means of access on Canyon Scenic Drive during the peak season. Since the new system was implemented, wildlife has returned to the canyon and noise levels have been reduced.

Hoover Dam Bridge. TEA-21 made construction of a project to replace the Hoover Dam Bridge specifically eligible for FLHP funding and, since the enactment of TEA-21, $86 million has been allocated towards the construction of this project.

The FHWA Central Federal Lands Highway Division is the lead agency for delivery of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project located on US 93 at the Nevada/Arizona border. U.S. Highway 93, a segment of the CANAMEX Corridor, is a designated NAFTA route between Mexico and Canada. The project addresses increases in traffic and the unsafe mix of pedestrians, cars, and trucks, that result in traffic gridlock, high accident rates, and potential for a catastrophic accident. The NEPA process was concluded in late March 2001 with selection of the Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative. This alternative will remove trucks and other through-traffic from the crest of Hoover Dam. This project is a model of cooperative effort between two States and multiple Federal agencies to solve a transportation safety and congestion problem at the Hoover Dam site.

The Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative includes a 2,000 foot-long bridge located 1,700 feet downstream and rising 250 feet above the Hoover Dam. This alternative also includes 3.5 miles of 4-lane roadway construction in extremely rugged terrain.

Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2002. At this time, four individual construction projects are planned in the following order: Arizona approach, Nevada approach, Colorado River Bridge, and final surfacing. The project delivery plan is flexible yet provides a structured approach to expenditure of sequential funds. Construction is anticipated to last five years with completion in 2007.

.

CONCLUSION

Overall, the Federal Lands Highway Program is working well in supporting our nation’s economy and improving the quality of life for all of our citizens. But the Federal Lands Highway system faces increasing demands from tourist traffic and resource development. The challenges facing us are to maintain and improve our transportation systems serving Federal and Tribal lands, in order to provide safe and sufficient transportation for residents and access for visitor enjoyment, while protecting the environmentally sensitive lands and cultural resources. Innovative and creative solutions will be required to address these challenges and must involve all Federal, Tribal, State, and local stakeholders.

I look forward to continue working with Congress and our partners during the reauthorization of the surface transportation programs to find solutions for improved mobility and safety to and within Federal and Tribal lands.

Mr. Chairman, I again thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.