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Alaskans Ask For Help From U.S. Transportation Secretary

By Samantha Angaiak, Business, Employment and Real Estate Reporter, Weekend Producer, sangaiak@ktuu.com
Published On: Aug 15 2014 06:42:38 AM AKDT
Updated On: Aug 15 2014 07:01:57 AM AKDT

The federal government's top transportation official is visiting Alaska this week to look at ways to help the state's residents.

WASILLA -

The federal government's top transportation official is visiting Alaska this week to look at ways to help the state's residents.

On Thursday, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was at a roundtable meeting in Wasilla, along with Sen. Mark Begich, to hear from the public.

For Rosemary Vavrin, riding the bus to get around in the Mat-Su Valley is a part of daily life.

"Eleven years ago when I lived in Anchorage, I was hit by a red-light runner so I don't drive any more," Vavrin said.

Vavrin attended the meeting to ask Foxx to increase bus service.

"To participate in the community process, we need more transit and that's beyond going grocery shopping and medical," Vavrin said. "It's very important and more people, I think, would participate if there was a way of coming to meetings like this."

Sharon Scott, a program officer for the Mat-Su Health Foundation, also attended the meeting and voiced her concerns to Foxx.

"We wanted him to understand that we know we have to do our part as a local community, we can't rely strictly on federal funds," Scott said. "We have to make the most of those and to do that, we have to work together -- there's just no question."

Foxx offered his support for those asking for more technical assistance.

"We are interested in helping not only this part of Alaska, but all of Alaska moving forward, creating more mobility options, reducing choke points and doing things we can do as an agency to support the vision you have," Foxx said.

The secretary was also asked about the Federal Transit Administration's letter to the Mat-Su Borough, asking it to pay back $12.3 million in federal grants for the fast ferry Susitna within the next 30 days.

"Unfortunately in this situation, we're having to take some action that we'd rather not be taking, but we are working with your local officials and I'm confident we will find a path forward," Foxx said.

Foxx plans to be in Nome and Unalakleet on Friday to have a closer look at rural transportation issues.