- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - Ninilchik officials are drafting a public transportation plan for a bus service in the western peninsula to provide members of the community access to medical services.

Ninilchik, located 38 miles southwest of Kenai, falls outside the purview of medical services in western peninsula’s highly populated areas and lacks sufficient health care, The Peninsula Clarion reports (https://bit.ly/1la3M8Z). The Ninilchik Traditional Council is proposing a bus service for the Kenai Peninsula to break down the barrier to health care that exists for many people without reliable transportation.

Darrel Williams, resource director for the tribe, said the bus service would transport people between the western peninsula’s two major population centers of Homer and the Kenai/Soldotna area. It would run frequently so that people could get to medical appointments, commute to work and visit friends, he said.

The tribe has constructed a 5,000-square-foot building to serve as the transportation hub. They conducted an environmental assessment and determined the project would not have a significant negative impact to the surrounding land. The Bureau of Indian Affairs signed off on it in 2012.

Williams said the tribe has estimated a $200,000 annual operating budget and $1.2 million in startup costs.

The tribe will have to compete with exiting transit programs for state funding, which may be difficult as more projects look for a portion of the budget.

However, Williams said the tribal council is more concerned with making transit available to those in need, rather than who provides it. A community task force is working on transit issues on the peninsula and the Central Area Rural Transit System already provides rides to the public on a paid punchcard system.

“Even if we don’t do it, as long as somebody does it, that will be awesome,” Williams said. “That’s the other side of this that I think people need to understand. Making it happen at this point in time is more important than who does.”

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, https://www.peninsulaclarion.com


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