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Thune, Sinema Introduce Bill to Improve and Maintain Tribal Infrastructure

Washington — 

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, this week introduced the Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act, legislation to increase tribal transportation funding flexibility and improve the transparency and consistency of the Tribal Transportation Program’s administration and data collection practices.

“This bill takes several important steps to ensure that South Dakota tribes get their fair share of funding to maintain and improve their transportation infrastructure,” said Thune. “I’d like to thank many of the tribes in our state for their help in crafting this legislation, and I look forward to seeing infrastructure improvements become a reality in tribal areas throughout South Dakota.”

“Tribal communities depend on safe roads to travel to work, get to school, and access health care,” said Sinema. “Strengthening transportation services in tribal communities expands opportunities for tribal members across Arizona.” 

The Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act would:

Improve the Accuracy and Transparency of the Tribal Transportation Program (TTP):  The bill requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs to use updated information when making funding allocations, and it requires that new data for certain facilities be updated and submitted. The bill also requires independent audits by the inspectors general of the Department of Transportation and the Department of the Interior, as well as the Government Accountability Office, to examine the program’s administration and its adequacy in addressing tribal infrastructure needs.

Improve Cooperation for Tribal Transportation Planning and Safety: The bill codifies a joint federal-tribal advisory committee currently established in regulation, which is tasked with gathering tribal input and providing recommendations to BIA for changes to the TTP. The bill also makes it easier for tribes to form cooperative agreements with state and local governments on highway planning, design, and safety.  

Increase Tribal Access to Funding: The bill makes several changes to increase tribal funding flexibility and access, including by increasing the federal share for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program for tribes and allowing tribes to use planning funds for grant applications.  

Strong stakeholder support for the Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act:

“On behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, I want to thank you for your leadership and your staff’s hard work in preparing the Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act to serve as an adjunct to the FAST Act by improving the Tribal Transportation Program,” said Rodney Bordeaux, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

“Thank you for your focus on Tribal transportation needs,” said Harold C. Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Julian Bear Runner, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “Without good, functioning roads … we will not be able to meet one of our fundamental goals: improving the quality of life for our citizens.”

“Funding for transportation and safety projects is critically important to Tribal Nations in Arizona and throughout Indian Country. However, this funding is often constrained by red tape and a lack of transparency in how the government administers the programs,” said Shan Lewis, vice chairman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and president of the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona. “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.”

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