Kohring bill would allocate trail money to rural roads

Posted: Tuesday, April 09, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Half of the $15 million in federal funds allocated annually to trails would instead go to build new gravel roads in rural areas, under a bill sponsored by Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla.

Hearings on House Bill 502 have been under way in the House Transportation Committee. Kohring chairs the committee.

This comes weeks after the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities adopted new regulations establishing percentage levels for funding categories of highways, roads and trails.

Mike Downing, assistant DOT commissioner, urged the committee to give the new regulations a chance before placing other categories in the statute.

He warned legislators that the proposed bill could lock the agency into narrow funding categories, reducing flexibility.

Kohring's proposal addresses a long-standing point of conflict between many legislators and Gov. Tony Knowles. They believe the governor is reluctant to tackle construction of new roads to communities that are now isolated or into undeveloped areas to stimulate development.

Lawmakers, including Kohring, also say Knowles has placed too much emphasis on recreational trails at the expense of roads, particularly a controversial proposed extension of Anchorage's Coastal Trail that has seen major cost increases.

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