City staff hope to make Sitka’s streets safer, with the help of half-a-million dollars in federal grant funding.

In early February, the city was awarded $550,000 from the US Department of Transportation to develop a comprehensive safety plan.

Public and Government Relations Director Melissa Henshaw says between 2016 and 2020, six serious traffic-related injuries were reported. She says the goal of the plan is to develop a “holistic, well-defined strategy to prevent roadway fatalities and serious injuries in the future.”

“We had the idea to apply for infrastructure funding for roads, and specifically we were looking for Katlian Street. But after looking further into it, we determined that an action plan was required in order to apply for infrastructure funding,” Henshaw says.

The assembly approved the federal grant application last September– it requires a $150,000 match from the city. It’s part of the bi-partisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law in 2021 –  $550 billion in national funding to be spent over the next five years, on everything from roads and bridges, safety and public transit, to power infrastructure and high speed internet. Along with Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau both scored money in this round to develop comprehensive safety plans of their own, and Henshaw says the Southeast communities may partner to share resources as they develop their plans. 

“It’s a pretty tight timeline, because the idea is to get this plan in place, and then we can apply for for further funding within those five years,” Henshaw says. “We’re a couple years into this bipartisan infrastructure funding, so if we can get this, the sooner the better, implemented, then we can go out and ask for actual infrastructure funding.”

Henshaw says they anticipate finishing the plan sometime in the next 12 to 24 months.