The Sterling Highway is seen June 14, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion file)

The Sterling Highway is seen June 14, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion file)

Kenai, Soldotna endorse bus pilot program

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe is working to expand public transportation on the central Kenai Peninsula.

The cities of Kenai and Soldotna support efforts by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe to expand public transportation on the central Kenai Peninsula. The tribe is submitting a grant application to the Federal Transit Administration for money to be used for a two-year bus pilot program.

According to information provided by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe to the Kenai City Council, if approved, two routes would run along three of the central peninsula’s major traffic corridors, serving the communities of Sterling, Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski. The service would be available to everyone in the community, not just members of the tribe. Service would be provided Monday through Saturday with “key stops” indicated by reflective bus stop signs branded by Kenaitze and affixed below street markers on existing signposts.

“Rural regions nationwide already know that reliable, affordable, and accessible systems of public transit are integral to a healthy community and economy,” information attributed to the Kenaitze Indian Tribe says.

The first route would be a “Nikiski” route and would run from Nikiski through the City of Kenai along the Kenai Spur Highway to the City of Soldotna and return along the northern section of Kalifornsky Beach Road through Kenai back to Nikiski.

The second route would be a “Sterling” route that would run from Sterling through Soldotna to Kenai along the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways and return eastbound along Kalifornsky Beach Road through Soldotna back to Sterling.

“A dependable, fixed-route bus service would enable riders to save money on the major segments of their trips, and arrange transportation to/from the bus stop using existing service providers, such as CARTS or Alaska Cab, to take them to their final destinations,” a supportive resolution passed by the Soldotna City Council earlier this month says.

In the letter from Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Gabriel voiced his strong support for the project.

“I strongly support the efforts of Kenaitze Indian Tribe to expand and enhance the availability of affordable public transit options not only for the region’s Alaska Native and Tribal citizenry, but for the many low-income, disabled, and other community members who continue to encounter access barriers to education, commerce, and employment because of a lack of connectivity to regional resources,” Gabriel wrote. “In the event this project is selected for funding, the City of Kenai is committed to meeting with the Tribe’s leadership to develop a more durable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or similar agreement that expresses our respective contributions to the success of this fixed-route service pilot.”

The letter can be found on the City of Kenai’s website at kenai.city.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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