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Point Hope awarded $2.89 million grant to fund roads, buses, sidewalks

December 18th, 2015 | Shady Grove Oliver Print this article   Email this article  

The Native Village of Point Hope was recently awarded a $2.89 million competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund transportation infrastructure improvements and construction in the community.

It is one of 39 projects across 34 states that will receive funding this year through the department's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program.

This is the seventh year of the program and one of the most competitive to date with a total of 627 eligible applications from all 50 states, a number of U.S. territories, and a handful of tribal governments. All together, applicants requested $10.1 billion in funds which is more than 20 times the $500 million set aside for the program, according to the department.

"I'm pleased to say that 43 percent of the projects awarded are in rural communities, a greater percentage than in any other round of TIGER," said Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx in a blog post.

The awards are separated into three categories: opportunity, innovation, and safety.

Point Hope's project fell under the opportunity category.

By improving access to areas of employment through better transportation options, the department hopes to support long-term job growth in "economically distressed areas" in three ways.

First, transportation projects often create jobs in the area in the short-term. Second, better roads and transportation opportunities can give people increased access to schools, hospitals, and jobs. Third, better streets can be an equalizer for economically disadvantaged parts of town and encourage new businesses and job growth in poorer areas.

In Point Hope, the money will go toward constructing five critical access roads in the community, constructing sidewalks throughout the village, redesigning existing roads for improved safety and accessibility, and purchasing buses that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The hope is to better connect local residents to "resources, services, jobs, training, and employment opportunities within Point Hope and the greater North Slope Borough region," according to the department.

When contacted by the Arctic Sounder, representatives from the village said they were very pleased to be receiving the grant and would be happy to comment further once they had touched base with everyone who had worked on the proposal.

The next category — innovation —includes projects that strive to cut the country's carbon footprint by incorporating green technology and projects that improve efficiency by putting into place new technology to streamline the transportation system.

One of the projects that will receive funding for innovation is a multi-state trucking system initiative to modernize technology along major freight routes throughout the midwest.

The final category is safety. Safety projects have the goal of reducing the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities due to poor infrastructure, or the goal of improving public health through diversified options.

In 2013, there were 5,175 bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities in the country, according to the department. That's why this year, constructing better multi-use transportation corridors was a priority. Another priority was improving railway and highway crossings to decrease vehicle-train accidents.

One of the projects awarded for safety is the construction of a bike and pedestrian route for the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, a federally recognized Native American tribe and the only other tribal project aside from Point Hope. The money will go toward building pedestrian and bike lanes on roads currently marked only for motorized traffic.

The TIGER awards have funded nearly 400 projects at a total cost of $4.6 billion since their inception in 2009. Foxx said he hopes the program will be able to provide increased levels of funding in the years to come.

Since this year's winners were announced, the Point Hope project has been in the spotlight, likely due to being the only awardee in Alaska and therefore one of the most remote and, possibly, most intriguing projects for those down in the Lower 48.

In the words of Secretary Foxx: "If you think transit service and reliable roads are important in the 'Lower 48,' imagine how important they are in this finger of land in Alaska's North Slope Borough, where the average high temperature in January and February is -16 degrees. Yes, that's a minus sign, and, yes, that's the high temperature."


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