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Kenaitze buys Kendall Ford building for Kenai bus depot

The former Kendall Ford location in Kenai.
Riley Board
The former Kendall Ford location in Kenai.

A former Kenai car dealership will become a transit hub for an upcoming tribal-run bus system.

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe has been working on developing a fixed-route bus system on the Central Peninsula for a few years now. The bus would serve the general public, not just tribal members.

Consultants presented preliminary plans for the system in November, where they described two buses running all day between Kenai and Soldotna, Monday through Friday, with stops like the Kenai Airport and Central Peninsula Hospital.

Earlier this month, the tribe announced its purchase of the former Kendall Ford property in Kenai. The spot will serve as a hub for the bus, and will be called Hetl Qenq’a, which means ‘sled house’ in Dena'ina.

The building sits on a three-acre parcel just east of the center of Kenai, at the corner of the Kenai Spur Highway and Marathon Road. The space is more than 20,000 square feet, and has a large mezzanine.

In addition to being a hub for the bus system, the center will host the tribe’s full transportation fleet, which includes 65 vehicles. The new facility will provide a cleaning and maintenance location for the fleet, along with office space and conference rooms.

A tribal council member thanked the Federal Transit Authority for its help in identifying a building and overcoming roadblocks. The tribe is coming close to the launch of the bus system, according to the announcement, although no specific date is identified.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.