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Asset Management

V. From Indian Country

Navajo Nation

The “Great Seal of the Navajo Nation” is a circle made of outward facing arrowheads with several images inside it. Inside the top of the circle is a sun shining over four images of mountains arranged in a diamond shape with three animals in the middle, and at the bottom are two plants that lie along the inside of the circle.

The Navajo Nation is a federally recognized tribe that extends into the States of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. The Navajo Nation Division of Transportation (DOT) is developin ansportationasset management program. Darlene Jenkins, Geographic

Information Systems (GIS) Analyst and Asset Management, is leading this process for Navajo DOT.

Transportation Asset Management. The Navajo asset management program began in 2011 with the development of an asset management plan and an asset inventory. The plan and inventory are being prepared directly by Navajo DOT professionals, not relying on consultants. Work began first on the asset management plan and a year later, is nearly complete.

The Navajo DOT logo is an image of the Navajo seal on top of the region with a black two-lane road running from one side of the region to the other.

Developing the inventory. Because the Navajo Nation is so large, Ms. Jenkins and her colleagues decided to start the asset management inventory with a pilot project. Work on the pilot inventory began while the asset management plan was still in development. Through the inventory pilot project, Ms. Jenkins is able to strategize and determine how long it will take to collect data for the whole Nation, work out any issues with the technology, and find out what additional equipment and data storage capacity she will need. The Navajo Nation is organized into five Agencies with 110 Chapter communities. The Crystal Chapter was selected for the pilot asset inventory data collection project.

Navajo DOT is developing the inventory of transportation assets using geospatial technologies and digital cameras. Ms. Jenkins is collecting data for four types of asset infrastructure: bridges, culverts, cattle guards, and signs. For each asset type, Ms. Jenkins is collecting several attributes, such as basic information on location, route number reservation code, agency number and infrastructure specifications such as those in Table 3.

Table 3: Navajo Asset List

Asset Type

Data Attributes


  • Number
  • Condition
  • Material
  • Notes
  • Comments


  • Type
  • Obstructed
  • Length
  • Notes
  • Comments

Cattle Guards

  • Material
  • Conditions
  • Notes
  • Comments


  • Sign description
  • Direction facing
  • Condition
  • Type of post
  • Speed limit
  • Number of supports
  • Support type
  • Notes
  • Comments (e.g. graffiti, bullet holes)

This image shows a collage of four photos. From the top left corner moving clockwise: a photo of a culvert; a bridge crossing a small field; a sign signaling deer crossing along the side of a rural road; and a cattle guard in the middle of a vast plain. The data is collected in the field using global positioning satellite (GPS) units to map the location of the assets. Several photos are taken of each asset to document current conditions (see Figure 7). Ms. Jenkins has found it wise to bring along extra cameras in case of breakdowns. Back in the office, this information is being managed using a GIS program. Through the BIA, the tribe was able to get free access to a license for the ArcGIS suite of products. Their GPS unit uses ArcPad and data is downloaded into ArcGIS 10 using Shapefile format for each infrastructure. Additionally, photographs are linked to each feature in the database.

Roads within the Navajo Nation are owned and maintained by a range of agencies, including the BIA, Navajo Nation, counties, and states. For the asset inventory, Navajo DOT has decided to focus on roads only administered by the BIA and Navajo DOT. The asset management inventory is not collecting any data on county, State and Federal highways, because the States and counties are responsible for those and have their own asset management programs. The BIA roadways are primarily paved roads, while the Navajo roadways are mostly earth or gravel roads.

Ms. Jenkins and a trainee spent 23 days in the field from June 29th through September 2nd, 2011 to collect data for the Crystal Chapter inventory. They planned to collect asset information on all 99 miles of the 29 routes in the chapter, but were only able to collect data for 80 miles due to road closures (barriers, no trespassing sign, gated, etc.). The shortest route was just over a tenth of a mile and the longest route was 13.2 miles.

Before each trip to collect data, Ms. Jenkins put out a public notice for nearby communities to let community members know that she would be out collecting data and what types of information she would be gathering. After the data collection was complete in an area, Ms. Jenkins presented the information back to the community. A total of 372 assets were inventoried in the Crystal Chapter area: 135 signs, 207 culverts, 25 cattle guards and 5 bridges. She is sharing the data with the Crystal Chapter local government so they can use it in their local transportation planning.

Figure 8. Navajo Nation Crystal Chapter Transportation Asset Management Infrastructures

A simple map of the Crystal Chapter of the Navajo Nation Reservation marks 131 road signs with a red dot, 207 culverts with a blue dot, 25 cattle guards with a purple dot, and 5 bridges with a black square.

Roadway mapping project. The asset management work is connected to an ongoing effort at Navajo DOT to improve its road inventory database. Since 2006, the Navajo DOT and its consultant have been working to create a digital map of all the public roadways in the Nation. The information from this project has allowed the tribe to add more roadways to the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) inventory. Where the tribe had previously had mostly State or Federal roads and BIA roads in their inventory, they now have many Navajo roads listed as well. The roadway mapping project supports the asset management work by providing the basic data about roadway location. The asset management project adds additional information about the location and condition of assets along those roads.

“There’s a lot of great potential for growth” through the asset management program.”

– Darlene Jenkins, Navajo Nation DOT

Next steps. Ms. Jenkins plans to have the asset inventory for all 110 Chapters complete by the end of 2013. Besides some Navajo DOT staff assistance, she is looking into hiring college students over the summer to assist with the data collection. Based on the Crystal Chapter pilot, Ms. Jenkins is hoping to be able to pursue grant funding that would allow her to build up the asset management program.

Once the inventory is complete, other professionals at Navajo DOT can help to estimate maintenance and life cycle costs for the assets. The transportation asset management plan and inventory will help Navajo DOT to optimize decisionmaking, project evaluation and prioritization; set better goals; and integrate budgets for the division. They can also be used to implement a work order system for the maintenance crews. Moving forward, the hope is to build up the tribe’s asset management program by expanding the types of infrastructure inventoried and tracked and improving the data collection, such as through the use of more advanced technologies.

Ms. Jenkins has been using the Crystal Chapter pilot project to help build support within the Navajo DOT for asset management. For example, she has discussed her equipment and staffing needs with her managers. She is also now working with other departments of the DOT to support their asset management efforts. She is currently training staff with the Navajo DOT’s Department of Roads (who maintain the Nation’s roads) and the Department of Aviation in asset management inventory techniques, who are very interested in using the data for their planning purposes.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

This screen shot shows a black and white aerial photo of a short section of roadway with several red lines and green dots drawn over the photo to mark important distances and figures along the roadway.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in Connecticut maintains asset management system software to assist with transportation asset management.Through interactive data screens and management modules, the asset management system tracks traffic volumes, equipment, services, and labor functions. It also tracks mowing, litter removal, snowplowing, landscaping and roadway maintenance and construction schedules. The life cycles of the Tribe’s equipment and vehicles are also tracked and calibrated to ensure they are replaced or maintained when required. The asset management system enables visual maps showing the location of roadway, culvert and drainage systems. Its records are centralized within the Public Works Department and transmitted electronically to other tribal departments for seamless information sharing. There is routine and mandatory staff training on the software to ensure proper use.

A screen shot shows the Infrastructure Systems digital tool for creating tribal asset databases.



Updated: 5/8/2015
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