United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, yesterday introduced, S. 1211, the Addressing Underdeveloped and Tribally Operated Streets (AUTOS) Act. The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Martha McSally (R-AZ), would enhance the safety of roads on Indian lands by streamlining existing federal procedures and funding mechanisms used to repair roads and bridges in Indian country.
“With a backlog of at least $280 million of deferred maintenance, many tribal roads are in dire condition and need to be improved in a timely manner,” said Hoeven. “That’s why we’ve introduced this legislation, which would help accelerate repairs for the many communities that use these roads and bridges on a daily basis. As Congress considers legislation to reauthorize America’s surface transportation programs, we will work to ensure this priority is addressed.”
“Enhancing infrastructure is an important part of improving life on tribal lands,” said Cramer. “This legislation streamlines the approval process for improving tribal roads and authorizes funding for these much-needed improvements. Better infrastructure means more economic opportunity.”
“Native Americans’ tribal infrastructure has been stifled under the red tape of the bureaucracy for too long,” said McSally. “I am proud to join the effort to streamline the process for tribal road repairs, increase safety, and provide additional funding for backlogged projects.”
The AUTOS Act does the following:
- Permits certain traffic safety projects that are identified by the Secretary of the Interior to be eligible for categorical exclusion. The Department of Transportation already allows these categorical exclusions for safety projects.
- Authorizes $46 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Road Maintenance Program, with increases of $2 million per year.
- Reinstates the Tribal Transportation Bridge Program as a standalone program instead of a 2 percent carve out in the Tribal Transportation Program.
- Directs the Secretaries of the Interior and Transportation to work with Indian Tribes in developing a standard and uniform crash report form.
- Directs BIA law enforcement to use one standard crash report form.
- Increases funding available for the Tribal Safety Transportation Program Safety Fund from 2 percent to 4 percent.
The bill, S. 1211, text can be found here.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) coordinate programs to address transportation issues in Indian country. The largest share of federal funding for highways on Indian lands is provided through the Tribal Transportation Program (TTP), which is jointly administered by the Federal Highway Administration and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Resources for these tribal transportation programs is mostly derived from the Highway Trust Fund.