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McCaleb boosts Indian roads program

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WASHINGTON ? Federal efforts to improve reservation roads are moving forward, said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb.

The Department of the Interior published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Indian Reservation Roads Program in the Federal Register on Aug. 7. The proposed rule is the product of negotiated rulemaking between tribal representatives and federal representatives from the Department of the Interior and the Department of Transportation under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century.

"Transportation is very important to public safety and to building reservation economies," said Assistant Secretary McCaleb. "This program will provide the necessary resources to rebuild and maintain transportation systems in order to improve public safety and attract potential businesses to the reservations."

The proposed rule would establish policies and procedures governing the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) Program and a proposal for allocation of the $275,000,000 in FY 2003 funds. The program will expand transportation activities available to tribes and tribal organizations as well as provide guidance for planning, designing, constructing and maintaining transportation facilities.

The BIA Indian Reservation Roads Program provides funding for eligible transportation projects that provide access to or within Indian reservations, Indian lands, Indian communities and Alaska Native villages. The program consists of 55,944 miles of roads and 4,185 bridges. The government said that 24 percent of the bridges are deficient.

The BIA is holding a series of public education and information meetings on the proposed rule in the following cities: Rapid City, S.D., Aug. 20; Billings, Mont., Aug. 22; Las Vegas, Nev., Aug. 27; Sacramento, Calif., Aug. 29; Gallup, N.M., Sept. 4; Santa Fe, N.M., Sept. 6; Anchorage, Alaska, Sept. 10; Portland, Ore., Sept. 12; Tulsa, Okla., Sept. 17; Oklahoma City, Okla., Sept. 19; Minneapolis, Minn., Sept. 25 and Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 27.

The schedule of meetings is published in the federal register. The comment period for the proposed rule ends Oct. 6. Written comments may be mailed or hand delivered to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Dockets Management Facility, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001 or submitted electronically at http://dms.dot.gov/submit. Docket number FHWA-2002-12229 must be included at the top of all comments.