WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee began consideration of a sweeping infrastructure bill, which includes key provisions to support Arizona tribes. The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act authorizes nearly $547 billion over five years to address some of the nation’s most urgent infrastructure needs.
“The federal government has a trust responsibility to tribal nations, which includes providing the resources necessary to ensure the transportation needs in Native communities are addressed,” said Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ).
- Funding for tribal road construction and infrastructure improvement: The proposed bill provides increased funding for the Tribal Transportation Program, providing $800 million a year; expands eligibility under the Tribal Transportation Bridge Program to allow construction of new bridges; and expands eligibility for safety projects under the TTP to include projects that educate the public and increase awareness concerning highway safety matters, and to better enforce highway safety laws in tribal nations.
- Funding for tribal high priority projects: To assist tribes whose annual transportation funding is insufficient to undertake their high priority transportation projects, the bill provides $50 million to reestablish a grant program to award grants for these projects.
- Funding for nationally significant projects within tribal lands and that create access to tribal lands: The bill provides $400 million annually for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program (NSFLTP), and would expand project eligibility and eligible uses of funds to allow for pre-construction activities; lower the minimum project cost threshold to $12.5 million for federal lands projects and $5 million for tribal projects; and increase federal cost share to 100 percent for tribal projects and requires program funds to be split 50-50 between tribal and federal lands projects.
- Establish an Office of Tribal Government Affairs: The bill establishes an Office of Tribal Government Affairs within the U.S. Department of Transportation and creates a new Assistant Secretary for Tribal Government Affairs position. The Office and the Assistant Secretary will oversee administration of the Tribal Transportation Self Governance Program, policies and programs serving Indian Tribes and Tribal Organizations, and will provide technical assistance to tribes.
- Establish a tribal funding report: The bill includes an amendment to require the Department of Transportation to submit an annual report to the House Transportation and Senate Environment and Public Works Committees to detail federal funding allocated to Indian Tribes. The report will provide information on highway, transit and safety dollars reaching tribal communities to help better inform Congress whether additional program changes are needed to make sure tribes get their fair share of transportation dollars through competitive and formula programs. It will also provide information on state funding to tribal communities.
The bill includes several other measures to tackle the nation’s massive backlog of roads, bridges, and transit systems in need of repair and replacement. It emphasizes investment in resilient infrastructure that will withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather, as well as sharp increases in funding for public transit options in urban, suburban and rural areas.
The Committee is expected to conclude markup this week before sending the bill to the House floor for a vote.