The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced Wednesday $100 million in Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 grant awards, funding two projects in Alaska and Mississippi. Also announced was $125 million in new funding availability for its Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects (NSFLTP) Program through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).
According to a press release by the USDOT, the grants were awarded to:
- The Native Village of Eyak. Located in Alaska, the tribal land will receive $45.7 million in 2021 Fiscal Year funding to construct a highway, dock support facilities and boat ramp at the Marine Tribal Transportation and Shepard Point Oil Spill Response Facility. The grant will improve transportation access to the facility, which is currently under construction and will serve as a multi-modal transportation and oil spill emergency response center for tribal members and the broader community of Cordova and the surrounding area.
- The National Park Service: A total of $54.3 million Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021 funding to resurface, restore, and rehabilitate the pavement condition of 83 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, improve safety by installing audible pavement markings and meet the transportation needs of multiple underserved communities. When the project is complete, the National Park Service expects to have a significantly improved roadway along a stretch of a historic transportation network used by those going to and from the seventh-most visited National Park Service facility in the nation.
“Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re now modernizing more of the infrastructure that creates opportunity in tribal communities, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We’re proud to award today’s funding, and to make even more available for next year.”
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) made significant changes to the NSFLTP program by increasing annual authorizations from $100 million to $355 million and ensuring tribal transportation facilities receive 50% of the appropriated funds. Most noteworthy, Tribes can apply for funding at 100% federal share with no matching requirement, a historic barrier for Tribal access to infrastructure funding.
“Improving Tribal infrastructure supports economic growth and better connected, safer communities on Tribal land. The grants we’re providing to communities in Alaska and Mississippi, as well as the additional available funding, will help bring much-needed infrastructure improvements to underserved Tribal communities and on Federal lands,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack. “The Federal Highway Administration looks forward to continuing and growing these investments in infrastructure on Tribal lands in the years to come.”
The NSFLTP provides Federal funding for construction, reconstruction, or rehabilitation of multi-modal transportation facilities that are situated within, adjacent to, or provide access to Federal or Tribal lands. A project of national significance is typically one that is vital to the surrounding community. In many cases, federal land management agencies and tribal governments cannot afford to complete these projects on their own because it would exhaust their financial resources. These projects are considered important to the well-being of the area in which they are located and to the surrounding community. They support safe access to popular recreation destinations such as National Parks or provide critical transportation support for hospitals and schools on Tribal lands.
The FHWA has worked closely with the National Park Service to improve infrastructure in and around national parks such as the Natchez Trace Parkway for decades. That partnership has grown since the 2020 passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which provided funding to improve and expand recreation opportunities in national parks and other public lands.