The Fight to Improve Tribal Transportation

Advocates for tribal communities argue that the bipartisan infrastructure bill does not direct enough money to tribal transportation needs, but USDOT and local leaders can ensure more equitable distribution of funds to projects on tribal lands.

1 minute read

November 3, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

A blog post from Tala Parker, a summer fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), examines the funding available for tribal transportation projects in last year’s infrastructure law, the potential for improvements, and the shortfalls of the bill in addressing the high rates of traffic violence on tribal lands.

“While the overall budget doubled, funding for Tribal transportation only increased by about 50 percent (from $2.4 billion in the FAST Act to $3.8 billion in the infrastructure law).” Parker explains that this increase is clearly inequitable, in part because Native people die at disproportionately high rates on roadways, and because the funding is not even proportionate to the Native population.

It is still possible to close the gap between the infrastructure law’s inadequate Tribal funding allocation and an equitable spending strategy, if the federal government and states succeed in allocating an additional $9-10 billion to address needs identified by Indigenous communities.

Parker outlines the oversight and long-term capacity building necessary to successfully implement this approach. Because the federal government did not direct enough funds to tribal roads and transportation in the bill, Parker writes, it’s up to state governments, tribal leaders, and the Department of Transportation to ensure an equitable distribution of resources that will improve safety and transportation options in tribal communities.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022 in NRDC

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