Council Delegate Leonard Pete Advocates Congress on Transportation Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Navajo Nation Council Delegate Leonard Pete (Chinle) and Navajo Department of Transportation division director Paulson Chaco were on Capitol Hill Jan. 30 to Feb 1., meeting with members of the U.S. Senate to advocate the Navajo Nation’s position on a transportation bill, S 1813, the “Moving Ahead For Progress in the 21st Century(MAP-21) Act.”
“MAP-21 is going to harm the Navajo people. Already we see our children’s school buses bogged down in mud, which is dangerous for the safety of our children. The new tribal transportation program is going to do more harm than good for the Navajo people,” Council Delegate Pete said.
Under the proposed legislation, the current Indian Reservation Roads Program(IRR) would be discarded and replaced with what is called the Tribal Transportation Program (TPP). The current IRR program is how federal transportation funding is filtered to tribes. The TTP was created to address what is argued to be the flawed IRR program.
The Navajo Nation strongly opposes MAP-21 because, unlike the original IRR formula distribution that was ultimately finalized by negotiated rule making with tribes, no tribes were consulted in the creation of the TTP.
Council Delegate Pete stated, “The new TTP under MAP-21 was created without any tribal consultation, and the program is based on population and not road needs, this sort of formula would never be used by states in their determination of road funding.”
The Navajo Nation recognizes that the current IRR formula lends itself to over-counting, leading to funds being collected for proposed roads that are never built, and for funding of transportation projects on roads that are maintained by the state and county governments.
Division Director Chaco stated, “[t]he ability to use the IRR resources to fund roads maintained by state and county governments is an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars and should be stopped. However, the TTP does nothing more than exacerbate the issue and creates even greater problems than before. The Navajo Nation has taken a firm stand in policy and practice to not take advantage of these loop holes, and as a result has consistently watched transportation funding decrease yearly since 2002.”
Under MAP-21, small urban tribes garner a significant increase in funding—while rural larger land base tribes, arguably those with the most need and no other access to transportation funding will see significant decreases. Of the 12 BIA Regions, Navajo, Alaska, and the Midwest would lose significant funding.
“The Navajo Nation stands committed to being good fiscal stewards of the American taxpayer dollar and feels strongly that the proposed solutions within MAP-21 do not adequately address the problems inherent within Indian Country transportation funding,” Council Delegate Pete said.
(Photo: Washed out road on the Navajo Nation near Blue Gap, Ariz. Photo Courtesy Navajo Nation Department of Transportation)