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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao Announces Historic Proposed Rule on Tribal Transportation Self-Governance

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to establish a Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program at the Department. The NPRM is the result of a successful three-year negotiated consensus rulemaking process, between representatives of Indian tribes, the Department, and the Department of the Interior.  

“The Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program will strengthen transportation infrastructure and reduce administrative red tape for Tribes receiving funding from the Department,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. 

The Department’s self-governance program will recognize the unique government-to-government relationship between the Indian tribes and the United States and improve the way the Department does business with the Tribes.  

“I am pleased that the Department of Transportation and Indian Tribes have agreed on the proposed rule concerning the Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program,” said U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “Now, Indian Tribes will have the opportunity to improve their highways and bridges through the proposed rule.”

Among the many benefits of the proposed Self-Governance Program, the proposal will streamline the Department’s approach to the distribution of transportation funding to Indian tribes. This will both reduce the administrative burden on the Tribes and promote greater self-sufficiency in Indian Country. By providing funding to local Tribal communities under a less onerous framework, the Department will partner with Tribes to ensure more program funds are used to improve the quality of life in Indian Country. 

The NPRM sets out the proposed mechanism for Tribes to participate in the program, the rights and obligations of the Department and participating Tribes, as well as procedural protections available to participating Tribes.  

Eligible Tribes participating in the program would attain greater autonomy in the management and delivery of transportation programs, including by determining internal priorities, redesigning programs, and reallocating resources to more effectively and efficiently meet their needs. The proposed rule would also streamline funding transfers for existing and future programs and grants that Tribes may receive. The proposed rule would reduce burdensome and costly regulatory requirements by harmonizing applicable requirements, and will streamline the delivery of infrastructure.  

DOT is seeking comments on the proposed rule and will hold Tribal consultations before the close of public comment 60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register. Read the full proposed rule here.