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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 72 · No. 1 > Guest Editorial

Jul/Aug 2008
Vol. 72 · No. 1

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-005

Guest Editorial

Providing Transportation Solutions to Federal And Tribal Partners

John R. BaxterMany people think of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) role as working in partnership with State departments of transportation and local governments in the delivery of Federal-aid programs. Although much of the agency’s effort is devoted to these important relationships, FHWA also delivers projects, programs, and services to numerous other Federal agencies, as well as tribal governments.

Federal land management agencies — stewards of nearly one-third of the land area of the United States — are charged with protecting and managing these resources and many of America’s national treasures contained within these areas. Although transportation is a critical component of that mission, these agencies often do not have the expertise or dedicated financing to sustain a long-term, coordinated transportation program. In 1982, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, signed into law on January 6, 1983, helped bring much-needed coordination to managing transportation to and on Federal lands through the creation of the Federal Lands Highway Program (FLHP).  Operated through FHWA’s Office of Federal Lands Highway, the FLHP brought greater overall stewardship and stability while leveraging diverse resources and facilitating coordination between numerous agencies in the development and maintenance of Federal and tribal road systems.

In many respects, Federal and tribal partners have transportation needs that are consistent with those of State and local agencies. These partners need to build and preserve a transportation network that serves the needs of their communities. That network must be safe for the traveling public and must be built and maintained within the context of the surrounding environment. The FLHP team uses the vernacular “lying lightly on the land.” The motto was adopted to embrace the program's respect for the sensitive environments that many of the roads traverse — national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges — and the values those environments represent to the Nation, while providing access to those lands for the enjoyment of the public. Similarly, the FLHP also works with Federal defense and security agencies to provide roadway networks to serve areas important to national security.

Tribal governments, as separate nations within the United States, represent a unique challenge and relationship for FHWA. Tribal governments often have more basic needs for transportation infrastructure and limited resources and expertise to deliver transportation services. Therefore, FHWA's critical role in this respect involves reaching the community level where transportation can help transform a community and its ability to achieve its goals. Ultimately, the FLHP supports government-to-government collaboration and enables FHWA to help fulfill the Federal Government’s trust responsibilities with tribal governments.

In this issue of Public Roads, the article titled “Accessing America’s Treasures” celebrates the 25th anniversary of the FLHP. Other articles touch on many important programs that enable FHWA and its diverse partners at the Federal, State, local, and tribal government levels to deliver the Nation’s transportation system for tomorrow.

John R. Baxter

Associate Administrator

Federal Lands Highway Program

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