Federal Funds Explore Public Transit in Aleknagik
The Wood River Bridge, part of a road from Dillingham to Aleknagik, 25 miles inland, could carry public transit, depending on the results of a federally-funded study.
On the threshold of Wood-Tikchik State Park, Aleknagik is way out in the Bush. The village is connected by a 25-mile road to Dillingham, however, and federal funds will explore how both communities can use the road to start public transit.
Bristol Bay Native Association (BBNA) received a $54,300 grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to develop a plan for transit service in the Nushagak River area. The plan will evaluate how transit can better connect people in Dillingham and Aleknagik to jobs and opportunities, particularly for older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income Bristol Bay residents.
The grant was part of a $20 million package the US Department of Transportation announced for forty-seven communities nationwide under the FTA’s Areas of Persistent Poverty (AoPP) program, which supports governments and nonprofits to create transit.
FTA also awarded the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities $785,400 for a statewide transit study, focused on disadvantaged communities. The assessment will list barriers to access, recommend solutions, and identify potential capital investments.
BBNA, though, is taking the initiative for its own solutions in the Bristol Bay area. Earlier this summer, the association was awarded $380,000 from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program. The money goes toward planning and preliminary engineering of a proposed 110-mile road from Aleknagik farther inland to Ekwok, New Stuyahok, and Koliganek.
Aleknagik is located at the head of the Wood River, and Dillingham sits where the river empties into Nushagak Bay. The three villages along the proposed inland road are on the banks of the Nushagak River, one of the most productive salmon streams in the world.
By introducing a new means of year-round transportation to those communities, BBNA intends to reduce fatalities by significantly reducing emergency vehicle response time and creating reliable ground transportation during significant weather events. The new road would also provide the ability to move freight year-round. The project will collaborate with the Nuyakuk River Hydroelectric facility to provide access for the project.
Although Aleknagik has barely more than 200 residents, it is classified as a “highway village” due to the paved road to Dillingham.
“Transit is the great equalizer, providing rides for those who do not have a car or cannot drive, and particularly in rural and tribal areas, having access to an affordable, reliable bus ride can mean the difference between isolation and opportunity,” says FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “FTA’s Areas of Persistent Poverty Program is about forging connections for people who need accessible transit the most.”
AoPP funds can support efforts to initiate transit service as well as improve service and modernize fleets, from procuring low- and no-emission buses to launching scheduling apps and refurbishing bus stops.