Sinema Renews Effort to Strengthen Tribal Transportation Infrastructure

Feb 23, 2021

Sinema’s bipartisan bill aims to improve infrastructure in tribal communities

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema reintroduced the Tribal Transportation Equity and Transparency Improvement Act with Republican Senator John Thune (SD). The bipartisan bill improves the Tribal Transportation Program, which provides critical transportation funding for tribal communities, helping improve communities’ roads, economies, and safety.
“Strengthening transparency and funding of the Tribal Transportation Program will increase infrastructure investment and improve road safety, fueling jobs and opportunities for tribal communities,” said Sinema.
“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,” states Shan Lewis, Vice Chairman, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, and President, 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.”

Unsafe reservation road conditions continue to be a significant barrier to economic development and efforts to improve living conditions on reservations. Sinema’s 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).
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 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.