Cherokee Nation Receives $2.5 Million U.S. DOT Grant for County Bridge Project

Illinois River Tahlequah

TAHLEQUAH, OK – The Cherokee Nation has been awarded a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods planning grant for a future Willis Road bridge project, which aims to improve connectivity between Tahlequah and Welling in Cherokee County.

The grant funds will support the planning phase for the project, which would include 5.6 miles of proposed new road and a new bridge to be built crossing over the Illinois River from Willis Road in Tahlequah to East 790 Road in the Welling community.

“The Cherokee Nation is committed to improving the lives of our citizens and communities through strategic investments in infrastructure,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will enable us to begin the planning process for a proposed project that would better connect our communities, improve public safety response in eastern Cherokee County, and create new opportunities for economic growth.”

The planning phase supported by the grant funds is expected to take up to a year. The tribe will provide opportunities for community engagement on the project as part of the planning process, and undertake environmental impact studies.

“We are grateful for the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation in this project,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “We know the Willis Road bridge will not only enhance transportation infrastructure, but also strengthen the bonds between our communities and provide a foundation for future progress.”

In just over three years, the tribe has helped construct or rehabilitate more than 146 miles of roads and built a number of bridges throughout the Cherokee Nation reservation. In 2023, the Cherokee Nation completed 45 road and bridge repair or replacement projects for a total investment of more than $20 million representing more than 63 miles.

In 2024, the tribe’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure expects to complete at least another $15 million in projects throughout six counties and will begin work on another 36 miles or road and bridge projects in five counties.