U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announces historic rule on tribal transportation self-governance

Pictured: The United States Department of Transportation headquarters.(Photo: Aude CC BY-SA [creativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0])

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New program will boost prospects for economic growth and enhance quality of life by strengthening transportation infrastructure in Indian Country

News Release

United States Department of Transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today published a final rule to establish the Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program at the agency. This new program will provide a flexible, effective framework for the Federal government and Indian tribes (Tribes) to work collaboratively to improve transportation infrastructure delivery in Indian country.

“The Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program will boost prospects for economic growth and enhance quality of life by strengthening transportation infrastructure and reducing administrative red tape for Tribes receiving funding from the Department,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

This new rule is the result of a successful multi-year negotiated rulemaking process between representatives of Tribes, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Department of the Interior. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program will recognize the unique government-to-government relationship between the Tribes and the Federal government and improve the way the U.S. Department of Transportation does business with Tribes.

The program will streamline the U.S. Department of Transportation’s distribution of transportation funding to participating Tribes. By providing funding under a less onerous framework, the U.S. Department of Transportation will ensure more program funds are used to improve the quality of life in Indian country.

Participating Tribes will attain greater autonomy in the management and delivery of transportation programs, including an enhanced ability to determine internal priorities, redesign programs, and reallocate resources to more effectively and efficiently meet their needs. The rule will also streamline transfers of grant awards that tribes receive. The rule will reduce burdensome and costly regulatory requirements by harmonizing requirements applicable to various grant programs, streamlining the delivery of infrastructure.

Head Councilman Joe Garcia of Ohkay Owingeh and former Chief Kay Rhoads of Sac and Fox Nation served as Tribal co-chairs on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program negotiated rulemaking committee. The committee considered 24 public comment letters, containing approximately 200 individual comments and questions received in response to the proposed rule published on October 2, 2019. The U.S. Department of Transportation also conducted three consultations and a virtual informational webinar over the 60-day comment period.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will continue to work toward the implementation of the Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program, which goes in to effect on October 1, 2020. The full text of the final rule can be viewed on the Federal Register here.

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