Murkowski Educates Senate on Alaska Road Needs

Senator: Highway Bill's New Formula Would "Unravel" Efforts in Rural Alaska

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today took to the U.S. Senate floor to educate her colleagues about the harm that could be done to Alaska’s Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) program through the Surface Transportation Bill being considered on Capitol Hill.

Earlier today, Senator Murkowski introduced an amendment that would protect the existing IRR funding formula from a newly-proposed one “written behind closed doors by a handful of people with no government-to-government tribal consultation.”

"Not Acceptable"

This legislation before us today seeks to undo, it takes apart all of the gains Alaska made through TEA-21, the 2004 rulemaking, through SAFETEA-LU – it’s all unraveled by this legislation. Alaska is unfairly harmed by MAP-21 more than any other region in the country. Alaska loses $16 million a year under MAP-21 and tribes throughout the state will be effectively shut out of the program. This is not acceptable, Mr. President. The current negotiated regulation, which was developed by consensus from tribes throughout the entire country, is focused on need. The new formula – which we see reflected in this legislation – was written behind closed doors by a handful of people with no government-to-government tribal consultation

"This is everything"

I’m once again going to put up the map of the State of Alaska superimposed over the rest of the Lower 48.  This is not a map that we sketch out because we like the size, this is the proportional size.  When you put Alaska superimposed over the rest of the Lower 48.  This map – and it may be tough to see – the red lines look like arteries going up the center of the state: that’s our road system.  All of these areas in white where you don’t see anything – there are no roads there.  Our roads are limited.  This is the Hall Road… our road system is this triangle right here with a few scattered in there.  What’s behind this great shadow of Alaska, the states covered up behind there – you’ve got North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois all tucked under this great expanse here.  Just imagine if you’re in Missouri and say you have no roads in that area.  That’s what we’re talking about.

My picture here is all of the roads in Alaska, not the IRR roads. These are our state roads, our highways, our federal highways, this is everything.  So when we’re talking about the IRR piece, the Indian Reservation Roads piece, it’s even more miniscule in terms of comparison. We’ve got approximately … 16,000 miles of road, 5,600 of which are unpaved but keep in mind we’ve got 570,000 square miles of land to cover.

"Restore Some Parity"

“What I am trying to do is restore some parity… Mr. President, I have other concerns, with this transportation bill. I have mentioned the Denali Commission. I have joined together with my colleague Senator Begich to file an amendment to this bill that will restore Denali Commission’s transportation program – an incredibly important program to our state.  I have also raised concerns about a provision within in the banking section that relates to the Alaska railroad.  These are concerns that while they might not register fully with all of our colleagues here in the Senate to Alaska they’re critical. Our transportation needs are different.  Some might say they are unique, but we have risen to the challenge with limited funding and smart people trying to do good things to connect us in ways that make sense.”