Advantage one is culture: Roads on Native land are falling apart—federal investment is critical to Native economies and cultural survival
NCAI 2012 (National Congress of American Indians, “Indian Country Budget Request FY 13,” http://www.ncai.org/resources/ncai-publications/indian-country-budget-request/fy2013/FY2013_Budget_Transportation.pdf)
Surface transportation in Indian Country involves thousands of miles of roads, bridges, and highways, and connects and serves both tribal and non-tribal communities. Millions of Americans and eight billion vehicles travel reservation roads annually. Despite being the principal transportation system for all residents of and visitors to tribal communities, reservation roads are still the most underdeveloped road network in the nation.
Currently, there are over 140,000 miles of Indian reservation roads with multiple owners, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, American Indian tribes, states, and counties. Construction of transportation systems that allow for safe travel and promote economic expansion will help strengthen tribal communities, while also making valuable contributions to much of the surrounding rural America.
Maintenance and enhancement of transportation infrastructure is critical to economic development, job creation, and improving living conditions for individuals and families throughout Indian Country. Deficient transportation infrastructure is a barrier which impedes economic development in Native communities. Tribal governments are working to improve public safety, education, health care, and housing, and generate jobs through economic development. These worthy objectives are more difficult to achieve when transportation infrastructure in Indian Country continues to lag behind the rest of the nation.
Tribal nations require sustained and adequate federal transportation appropriations to address the large backlog of deferred road and bridge construction and road maintenance needs. Investing in tribal transportation will create jobs and make Native economies stronger.
• Provide $500 million for the Indian Reservation Roads Programs.
• Provide $20 million for the Indian Reservation Roads Bridge Program.
The officials at the Departments of the Interior and Transportation have recognized that transportation systems within Indian Country are suffering from a nearly $40 billion construction backlog. An equally daunting backlog exists for deferred maintenance for tribal transportation facilities. Rising construction inflation rates continue to diminish the purchasing power of the limited federal funds currently provided to the IRR Program and other tribal transportation programs. Even solid tribal roads and bridges fall into disrepair and require costly reconstruction years before the end of their design life due to a lack of more cost-effective maintenance funding. Under any assessment, tribal transportation programs remain severely underfunded and the construction and maintenance funding backlog will only get worse without significant funding increases during the next highway reauthorization period.