National Congress of American Indians 8 (The oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the interests of tribal governments and communities, December, “Tribal Transportation Programs”, http://www.nijc.org/pdfs/TTAP/NCAITransportationLegislativePacketDec2008.pdf)
The lack of adequate maintenance funding for Tribal roads and brides is dangerous, shortsighted and financially wasteful because it contributes to highway fatalities and fails to protect these valuable taxpayer-funded infrastructure investments. The Interior Department’s repeated failure to adequately budget for the BIA Road Maintenance Program is also contrary to the express Congressional mandate in SAFETEA-LU, which authorized Tribal governments to spend up to 25% their IRR Program dollars for maintenance purposes, but also required that: “The Bureau of Indian Affairs shall continue to retain primary responsibility, including annual funding request responsibility, for road maintenance programs on Indian reservations. The Secretary [of Transportation] shall ensure that [IRR Program] funding made available . . . for maintenance of Indian reservation roads for each fiscal year is supplementary to and not in lieu of any obligation of funds by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for road maintenance programs on Indian reservations.” 23 U.S.C. §204(c), as amended. Unfortunately, contrary to Congressional intent in SAFETEA-LU, as funding for the IRR Program has gone up under SAFETEA-LU, Interior Department budget requests to Congress have actually proposed reduced funding for the BIA Road Maintenance Program. The BIA Road Maintenance Program is so poorly funded currently that there are not even sufficient funds to address road maintenance emergencies that create life threatening risks to Tribal members and other system users. Every BIA Regional office has reported that they have faced major road and bridge maintenance emergencies but have lacked the financial resources to respond to them effectively. As Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan explained at a recent Senate hearing, “the lack of adequate road maintenance funding unnecessarily puts lives at risks and contributes to the discouraging on too many Indian reservations and Tribal communities that Indian people must just learn to live with “third world” levels of transportation infrastructure.” As Tribal governments and the Federal government invest millions of taxpayer dollars to build and reconstruct roads in Indian country, it is economically foolish not to spend the relatively small sums needed to adequately maintain these routes to extend their useful design life. If pennies are spent on road maintenance, dollars will be saved on road reconstruction, and many more dollars will be saved on the societal costs of traffic fatalities and injuries.