The Federal Highway Administration recently issued $20.9 million in grants to 88 tribal projects aimed at reducing roadway fatalities and serious injuries on tribal lands.
[Above photo via the Chippewa Cree Tribe]
Those fiscal year 2023 grants, issued through the FHWA’s Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund, will help tribes incorporate pavement markings, rumble strips, and better pedestrian infrastructure within their transportation projects – countermeasures aimed at reducing the “unacceptably high number of roadway deaths,” as laid out in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy unveiled in January 2022.
That’s in part because transportation-related injuries and fatalities affect Native American and Alaska Native populations at greater rates than other demographic groups, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
“The crisis of traffic deaths on our nation’s roads stretches across the country, and that devastation is experienced at even higher rates in communities of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and other indigenous peoples,” said USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement. “[These] grants … will improve, repair, and modernize infrastructure in communities of all sizes on Tribal land, making roads safer and saving lives.”
“We’re pleased to provide funding that can help Tribes install roadway departure countermeasures and infrastructure improvements like road shoulder widening as well as pedestrian paths to make travel for all road users safer while improving mobility, access, and economic opportunity,” added FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt.
FHWA added that this round of grants will specifically fund 29 safety plan projects, including grants for seven tribes developing their first transportation safety plans.
The agency added that this founding comes from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, which has significantly boosted funding for FHWA’s Tribal Transportation Program, including the Safety Fund, to $3 billion for FY 2022 through 2026.
The USDOT’s Safe Streets and Roads for All discretionary grant program also provides funding to Tribes to develop comprehensive safety action plans, projects and strategies that will prevent roadway deaths and serious injuries, the agency noted.
FHWA said it also provides comprehensive transportation training and technical assistance to Tribal communities through its Tribal Technical Assistance Program or TTAP; a 100 percent federally-funded discretionary program that serves the 12 Bureau of Indian Affairs regions and associated tribes as they seek to access IIJA funding, as well as additional federal transportation funding opportunities.
To further assist the 574 federally recognized tribes and their transportation needs, FHWA added that it developed Transportation Funding Opportunities for Tribal Nations, a brochure that provides information on new highway programs created under IIJA as well as existing highway and bridge transportation funding programs.