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Economics alumna Kelcie Ralph returns to Anchorage for the summer to improve biking infrastructure

by Matt Jardin  |   

Kelcie Ralph, B.A. Economics '09, presenting "Childhood Car Access: Long-term Consequences for Education, Employment and Earnings" in February 2019. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Rutgers University assistant professor and UAA economics alumna Kelcie Ralph, Ph.D., returns to UAA as a visiting distinguished professor for the College of Business and Public Policy.

In addition to her research, Ralph will be spending summer 2019 working with nonprofit Bike Anchorage, the Anchorage Museum and other community partners on a series of projects aimed at improving biking in Anchorage.

"I'm working on research projects that I could do anywhere, but I just really wanted to be back in Alaska," said Ralph. "I owe this city a lot and now that I have a Ph.D. in transportation planning, I felt like I needed to give back to Anchorage."

Some of the short-term projects involve creating pop-up spaces around town that demonstrate to the public what a more bike-friendly community would look and feel like. One of planned pop-ups would include a protected bike path along Fireweed Lane in midtown Anchorage.

For the more long-term projects, Ralph will be fielding requests from the Anchorage Museum that require more widespread changes to the city's infrastructure and traffic. Some of these requests include improving the wayfinding on Anchorage's trail system, and ensuring safety along downtown's busier roads.

Ralph will take these requests back to New Jersey this fall when she returns to Rutgers. There, she'll task her students with figuring out every aspect of the solution, from design to implementation.

"A huge part of what the students are going to be working on is figuring out the right levers to pull and the right people to talk to," said Ralph. "Building safer streets takes a lot of partnerships and getting everyone on the same page is definitely the hardest part."

The following spring, Ralph plans to return to Anchorage yet again to put her students' proposals to the test, providing an exciting real-world demonstration of all their hard work.

Written by Matt Jardin, UAA Office of University Advancement

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