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Tribal Transportation Funding Resources


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Executive Summary

This summary provides Tribal decisionmakers and planners with a brief overview of Federal funding resources available for Tribal transportation projects.

What is Financial Planning?

Financial planning is the process of detailing a project's purpose and need by estimating its costs and identifying potential funding sources available. Every project included in the Tribe's long-range transportation plan (LRTP) and Tribal Transportation Improvement Program (TTIP)-a prioritized list of transportation projects that the Tribe plans to undertake in the next three to six years-should be included in the financial plan. This critical step helps the Tribe meet one of the most important requirements of the LRTP and TTIP-ensuring that the total cost of the projects does not exceed the amount of money expected to be available for transportation projects. The financial plan can also help support the project when applying for or requesting future transportation funding.

What Federal Funding Sources are Available to Tribes?

There are 36 Federal-aid programs that can be used to fund transportation projects on Tribal lands. Each program has specific criteria for the types of projects that are eligible for Federal-aid funding. Additionally the different programs are administered by specific agencies, with specific and varying rules and regulations associated with how the funds are distributed. Before pursuing funding from any of these programs, Tribal planners should be sure that transportation projects meet the program's eligibility criteria and work with the appropriate responsible agency to see that the application procedures and rules are followed appropriately. Most Federal-aid funding programs require coordination and consultation among all agencies involved in project planning and funding. Depending on the Federal-aid program procedures, this may require coordination between the Federal, State, Tribal, metropolitan, and local governments. The Federal-Aid Highway funds are distributed to the individual States, who then are responsible to select projects for funding and implementation. Tribes should work with their State's department of transportation to ensure that they understand the eligibility criteria and project selection process and have access to the Federal-aid funding, as appropriate.

Federal-aid programs include:

Table 1. Examples of Federal-Aid Programs that Fund Transportation Activities on Tribal Lands
Program Administering Agency Examples of Eligible Activities
Surface Transportation Program FHWA
  • Construction
  • Reconstruction
  • Rehabilitation
  • Resurfacing
  • Restoration and operational improvement for highways
National Highway System FHWA
  • Construction, reconstruction, resurfacing, restoration and rehabilitation of segments of the National Highway System
  • Construction of eligible transit projects
  • Bicycle systems and pedestrian walkways
  • Transportation planning
  • Participation in natural habitat and wetland mitigation efforts related to eligible projects including mitigation banks and State and regional conservation efforts
Highway Bridge FHWA
  • Replacement of highway bridge within the corridor of any public road
  • Rehabilitation to restore the structural integrity and to correct major functional defects of a bridge on any public road
  • Bridge painting, earthquake protections, and removing damage caused by legally used chemicals such as roadway salt
High-Priority Projects FHWA
  • High Priority Projects listed in Federal legislation
  • Projects of National and Regional Significance as listed in Federal legislation
  • National Corridor Infrastructure Improvement listed in Federal legislation
Congestion Mitigation Air Quality FHWA
  • Pedestrian and bicycle off-road or on-road facilities
  • Transportation management and monitoring systems
  • Traffic management, monitoring and congestion relief strategies
  • New transit systems and service expansions
  • New services and program with air quality benefits
  • Inspection and maintenance programs
  • Experimental pilot projects and innovative financing
  • Transportation facility planning, research, engineering, construction and reconstruction
  • Tourism enhancement and recreational development
  • Vehicular parking area improvements and additions
  • Interpretive signage installation
  • Scenic easement and scenic or historic site acquisition
  • Pedestrian and bicycle on-and-off road system improvements
  • Provision of transit facilities and services within public lands, national parks and Indian reservations

Where Can I Find More Information?

Staff from the BIA, FLH, FHWA Federal-aid Division Offices, or State departments of transportation can provide more information to Tribes interested in learning more about these funding program and how to apply for the Federal-aid funding programs for their transportation projects. The complete module Tribal Transportation Funding Sources can be found at

Transportation Decisionmaking Information Tools for Tribal Governments

The eight modules in the Transportation Decisionmaking Information Tools for Tribal Governments include:

  1. Introduction to Planning
  2. Developing a Long-Range Transportation Plan
  3. Developing the Transportation Improvement Program
  4. Funding Resources
  5. Public Involvement
  6. Data Collection and Use
  7. Safety
  8. Project Prioritization


Theresa Hutchins, FHWA Office of Planning
Phone: (360) 753-9402

Michelle Noch, FHWA Office of Planning
Phone: (202) 366-9206

Kyle Kitchel, FHWA Western Federal Lands High Division
Phone: (360) 619-7951

Brian Beltyon, FHWA Resource Center
Phone: (410) 962-0086

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Updated: 1/31/2017
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