Alaska transportation, housing sees funding increase from Senate committee

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A bill set for 2019 was advanced Thursday by the U.S. Senate committee overseeing spending, and includes a larger-than-usual payout for several Alaskan services.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which meets and votes on budgeting and discretionary spending, released information for its 2019 bill determining spending in T-HUD, or Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development.

In that appropriations bill for the upcoming year, several points specifically earmarked to fund Alaska programs were mentioned by Alaska's senior Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a news release Friday.

Specifically, an increase was secured for funds that go towards keeping rural or remote villages connected to trade - Essential Air Service.

[RELATED: Three Alaska villages could become part of Essential Air Service]

Last year, the T-HUD budget for EAS in the state was $275 million. This year, an additional $30 million in spending was portioned for Alaska, bringing the total of $315 million to provide those remote areas access to shipping which wouldn't reach them through the National Air Transportation System.

Additional provisions with the goal of expanding and facilitating transport in Alaska were also included in 2019's bill.

FAA regulation changes are setting out to mandate that air cargo carriers in the state use National Weather Service reports pre-flight. Murkowski is countering those FAA rules by including some language into the bill which "allows these carriers to continue flying by using available weather data, such as a Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) or Meteorological Aerodrome Report (METAR)."

According to Murkowski, the NWS conditions reports do not have forecasted weather data available for most of Alaska, so alternative weather data is necessary.

In addition to the transportation considerations, housing assistance also saw additional funding, including the Indian Housing Block Grant, and Indian Community Development Fund.

In a statement issued Friday, Murkowski said, "Through this bill, we provide substantial investments for capital projects that will improve access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation as well as maintain transportation networks critical to Alaskans."

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