Legislation Would Help Tribes Improve Roads
Lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday about legislation that would provide funding to build and maintain roads and bridges in Indian Country. Only 17 percent of those roads are considered "acceptable" by the federal government.
There's a $280 million backlog in deferred maintenance of federal roads in Indian Country, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among Native Americans.
Jamie Azure, chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas, told lawmakers he has to take money from one fund that would build new roads to pay to maintain the dirt roads.
"We're never able to start from phase one to actually address the problems," Azure said. "We're always in a reactionary mode to fix to make sure our children are safe who are out on these roadways in bus systems."
Proposed legislation would provide the Bureau of Indian Affairs $46 million to maintain roads with a $2 million increase each year.