Developing a Safe and Sustainable Transportation System in Mertarvik – Phase II CSET Outreach and Partnership with the Newtok Relocation Project

Newtok is a small community of 453 residents located on the Ningliq River along the western coast of Alaska. Newtok is experiencing similar problems to that of more publicized Shishmaref, AK where houses are falling into a shifting and eroding landscape. Newtok is immediately threatened by melting permafrost and coastal erosion due to fall storms, causing the Ningliq River and adjacent slough to widen and migrate in the direction of the community. The village is currently undergoing the process of planning a nine-mile move to Mertarvik, a new location on nearby Nelson Island, formed primarily by an old lava flow offering more stable ground. In the near future, they are likely to be many more “Newtoks” across Alaska, and perhaps the rest of the United States. The Newtok project is anticipated to be a first step in helping very rural and isolated communities develop standards for safe roads that meet their unique travel needs. The knowledge gained during this endeavor will be invaluable when similar projects arise in the future. Even for the most seasoned engineer, Newtok represents one of very few occasions where the road and town layouts are being done completely from scratch and, perhaps, the first time a community will be transitioning so rapidly from boardwalk to a formal and conventional road system. Newtok offers an unbiased look at what a village should look like and the potential to, if done properly, instill the use of active modes of transportation from the beginning through supportive environments using a context and culturally sensitive approach. Community and road construction has started and will continue through summer/fall of 2018 and likely carry on into the following construction season.