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Federal funding is key to recovery of Native transportation infrastructure

Rickert 11 (Rickert, Levi, editor in chief of Native Currents. “Senators Told: ‘Roads in Indian Country are not Safe.’”

"Roads in Indian Country are not safe," testified Tribal Chairman Charles W. Murphy of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe before the US Committee on Indian Affairs on Thursday during the "Transportation: Paving the Way for Jobs, Infrastructure, and Safety in Native Communities" hearing. That message was heard over and over by those who made testimony. "Many resemble those found in developing countries; not the most powerful nation in the world. The United States must help Indian Country recover its lost transportation infrastructure," continued Chairman Murphy. Two-thirds of roads on Indian reservations are unpaved. Twenty-seven percent bridges have been deemed structurally deficient. Floods, snow and other natural disasters have made roads and bridges worse on several reservations in Indian Country. It would take 28 years of continuous development and repairs to bring roads in Indian Country up to where they need to be. The lack of funding contributes to the transportation disparity in Indian Country. "States governments spend between $4,000 and $5,000 per road mile on state road and highway maintenance. In contrast, road maintenance spending in Indian Country is less than $500 per road mile," testified Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians. "Indian Country has an unmet immediate need of well over $258 million in maintenance funding for roads and bridges." Tragically, the poor roads in Indian Country result in traffic deaths that occur at rates of two to three times the national average. During the past five years, the number of fatal crashes has declined by 2.2 percent nationally. By contrast, in Indian Country, the number of fatal crashes has increased 52.5 percent during the same time period. One positive note to come out the Senate hearing was the fact that some 6,500 construction jobs were created from the American Recovery Act, commonly referred to as the Economic Stimulus Package. Even with the positive note, there is still a lot of work to be done in Indian Country to improve the roads.

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