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Bipartisan bill renews effort to strengthen Tribal transportation infrastructure

Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act aims to improve the Tribal Transportation Program, which provides critical transportation funding to improve tribal communities, roads, economies and safety.

News Release

Office of Arizona Senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema

The Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act has been reintroduced with bipartisan support. The bill aims to improve the Tribal Transportation Program, which provides critical transportation funding for tribal communities; helping improve communities’ roads, economies and safety.

“Funding for transportation and safety projects is critically important to Tribal Nations in Arizona and throughout Indian Country," said Shan Lewis, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe vice chairman and Inter Tribal Association of Arizona president. 

Lewis praised Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who reintroduced the bill with Senator John Thune (R-SD).

"This funding is often constrained by red tape and a lack of transparency in how the government administers the programs. We support Senator Sinema in her leadership for bringing transparency and flexibility to tribal transportation programs within the Federal government and ensuring that Tribal Nations are able to rely on these resources through accountable and accessible systems.”

Pictured: Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9).

Arizona Senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema

Unsafe reservation road conditions continue to be a significant barrier to economic development and efforts to improve living conditions on reservations. The Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act requires the Inspectors General of the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Interior to review management process used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and examine the transparency and consistency of the administration of the Tribal Transportation Program (TPP).

Pictured:  The Nez Perce Tribe has spent over $2 million of their Tribal Transportation Program funds on the Aht’Wy Interchange project.
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“Strengthening transparency and funding of the Tribal Transportation Program will increase infrastructure investment and improve road safety, fueling jobs and opportunities for tribal communities,” Sinema said.

Indian County’s economy depends upon transportation infrastructure. Without safe and well-maintained roads, Tribes are unable to provide essential services to their citizens. Despite the approximate 11 billion miles traveled on the Tribal Transportation Program system annually, more than 60 percent of the system is unpaved.

The state of these roads explain why Native people are killed at rates twice that of all other ethnic groups in the United States as a result of motor vehicle crashes. In Arizona, tribal roads are often in such disrepair that children cannot attend school, sick and injured people are prevented from reaching hospitals, and emergency responders are delayed in providing timely assistance to people in need.

The Yavapai-Apache Nation, Navajo Nation and the Tohono O’odham Nation all receive TTP dollars. Sinema worked on this bipartisan bill with the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, Government Accountability Office, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

During a Senate confirmation hearing, Sinema stressed to now-Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg that the 22 Native American Tribes in Arizona have specific and unique transportation needs that the U.S. Department of Transportation must address. Sinema highlighted the Tribal Transportation Program, which works to address the transportation needs of Tribal governments.

The bill comes off the heels of Sinema's cosponsorship of the Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act—bipartisan legislation that increases flexibility for Tribes in Arizona to utilize transportation funds, while bolstering the transportation and consistency of the Tribal Transportation Program. The TTP provides safe and adequate transportation and public road access to and within Indian reservations and Indian lands, and intends to contribute to the economic development, self-determination and employment of Tribal communities

Ten inches of mud can be typical on the unpaved roads of the Navajo Nation during spring thaw, making access to remote communities especially difficult.

Ten inches of mud can be typical on the unpaved roads of the Navajo Nation during spring thaw, making access to remote communities especially difficult.

Sinema announced the Navajo Nation was awarded $592,740 for transportation safety improvements last week.

“Today’s funding strengthens economic opportunities for the Navajo Nation—creating jobs, improving roads, and expanding access to vital services,” Sinema said.