WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today convened an oversight hearing to examine the safety of Indian roads and the progress made to the tribal self-governance program within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
“These roads, highways and bridges are used by children going to their schools, emergency and first responders to reach those in need, and tribal members to reach their place of employment. These roads also provide economic opportunity to tribes by providing access to and from Indian lands,” said Hoeven. “However, many of these roads and bridges are in dire need of improvement. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), there is at least a $280 million backlog of deferred maintenance of BIA roads with only 17 percent of the BIA roads considered to be in acceptable condition.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) children, and also the leading cause of unintentional injuries for AIAN adults. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), there are 161,000 miles of existing and proposed roads on Indian lands. The BIA and the Federal Highway Administration within the DOT jointly administer the Tribal Transportation Program (TTP). The TTP funding is derived from the Highway Trust Fund and allocated to Indian tribes through a statutory formula.
On December 4, 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 was signed into law replacing the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. The FAST Act includes provisions that fund tribal highway maintenance, construction, and safety programs for Indian tribes and included several reports to be conducted by the DOT on improving road safety data. Authorization for the FAST Act expires in 2020. The FAST Act funds many programs that are vital to providing safe transportation throughout Indian country.