Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program Cuts Through Red Tape

The Oneida Indian Nation’s Tribal Transportation program provides safe and adequate transportation and public road access to and within the Oneida reservation. The Nation maintains 12.22 miles of road within the reservation. The Beechtree Lane extension project (pictured here) was completed in 2017. (Courtesy Oneida Indian Nation)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published a final rule on June 1 to establish the Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program at DOT. This new program will provide a flexible, effective framework for the federal government and Indian 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, DOT, and the Department of the Interior. The DOT’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 DOT does business with Tribes.

The program will streamline DOT’s distribution of transportation funding to participating Tribes. By providing funding under a less onerous framework, DOT 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 DOT’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. DOT also conducted three consultations and a virtual informational webinar over the 60-day comment period.

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





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