All-terrain vehicles became street-legal in Ketchikan on Jan. 1 after a new state regulation from Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration took effect in many parts of the state.
New state regulations allow properly-equipped ATVs on roads with speed limits of 45 miles per hour or less. The vehicles must be registered with a license plate and have working lights and other safety equipment. The driver must be licensed and insured.
But some officials have expressed concerns about whether off-road vehicles are safe on city streets. Ketchikan’s city manager and police chief each said they were worried four-wheelers and side-by-sides aren’t safe enough to share the road with cars and trucks. They recommended the council keep ATVs off city streets. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission says ATVs are “extremely dangerous” on paved roads. City governments in Juneau, Anchorage and Sitka have banned them on city streets.
But Ketchikan’s City Council voted 4-3 last month to allow ATVs to remain street-legal when the new regulation went into force on New Year’s Day. Council Members Janalee Gage, Mark Flora and Judy Zenge were opposed.
Council Member Lallette Kistler asked the City Council to reconsider last week. But in a unanimous vote on Thursday, the council decided not to. There was no discussion.
It’s not clear whether Ketchikan’s borough could ban ATVs — in a statement, Ketchikan’s borough attorney, Glenn Brown, says it’s not a settled legal question.
“If it were tested, I believe second class boroughs would be empowered to prohibit them. Second class boroughs have statutory powers to regulate the licensing and operation of motor vehicles to the extent that it does not conflict with state law,” Brown said.
But so far, the borough hasn’t considered a ban.
Ketchikan’s decision comes as communities across the state are considering whether to allow four-wheelers and side-by-sides on local roads.
Craig’s City Council has temporarily banned ATVs until at least March 31. City Administrator Brian Templin says a working group is studying the issue.
“We’re going to be putting out a schedule for public meetings over the next several weeks, and my expectation is that the working group will be ready to make some recommendations or provide comments back to the City Council by the end of February,” Templin said by phone.
ATVs are allowed on city roads in Thorne Bay, but they must be inspected by the city annually and meet additional local requirements like visibility flags. That’s according to city code.
Klawock’s City Council will consider opting out at a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, Jan. 18, the mayor told KRBD.
And Metlakatla’s police chief told KRBD that ATVs have been road-legal in that community by tribal ordinance for about the last two decades.
Disclosure: Ketchikan Borough Attorney Glenn Brown is a member of KRBD’s nonprofit board of directors, which does not direct news coverage.