Under the operation and maintenance of BIA roads, transportation facilities located on Indian Reservations and within tribal communities are maintained. Roads maintenance program funds are administered at the BIA Region offices for the maintenance of roads identified as part of the BIA roads system. The BIA road system is part of the National Tribal Transportation Facility Inventory (NTTFI). As public roads, BIA roads and bridges are often major corridors that provide access for tribal communities through which medical, educational, commercial and recreational services and opportunities are delivered or made available to tribal members and the general public. In addition,Tribal Transportation Facilities (all other public roads) also provide access to Indian communities, trust and fee lands. As a public authority, the BIA is responsible for the maintenance and improvement of BIA roads and bridges. The broad definition of BIA roads includes all transportation-related facilities used in surface transportation such as: roads, bridges, ferry terminals, ferry boats, trails, boardwalks, primitive roads and administrative roads to BIA agency offices.
Road maintenance activities include the following functions: road maintenance, routine maintenance, bridge maintenance, snow and ice removal, emergency maintenance, ferry boat operation and program management.
Ferry boat operation is limited to a facility located in the Northwest Region in the state of Washington.
Road maintenance for the BIA is defined as the preservation of the roadway template and related structures in the as-built condition. It does not include new construction, improvement or reconstruction as an eligible activity. It is the policy of the BIA Road Maintenance Program to preserve, repair, and restore the BIA system of roadways and transportation facilities in accordance with Federal, State, Tribal, and Local laws, as applicable. The BIA is mandated to maintain roads, and transportation facilities constructed with Highway Trust Funds.
Many of these BIA roads are in failing to fair condition and are not built to any adequate design standard and have safety deficiencies. In FY2012, approximately 5,150 mils, or 17%, were considered to be in acceptable condition based on the BIA Service Level Index condition assessment criteria. The remaining roads, 23,850 miles, or 83%, were in unacceptable condition. Many of these roads are used today for vehicular traffic even though the roads were never planned or designed for that use.
Today,approximately 29,500 miles and 930 bridges are identified as BIA roads in the NTTFI, including other appurtenances such as roadway signs, protective devices, guide posts, various drainage structures, fencing and one ferry boat system.
The Tribal Transportation Program addresses transportation needs of tribes by providing funds for planning, designing, construction, and maintenance activities for all public roads. The program is jointly administered by the Federal Highway Administration’s Federals Lands Highway Office (FHWA) and the BIA, Division of Transportation, in accordance with an interagency agreement. The current highway authorization act is Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) and codified in Title 23 U.S.C. § 202. The regulations for the Tribal Transportation Program are published at 25 C.F.R. Part 170, but the BIA is currently engaged in revising Part 170 to bring the regulation into compliance with MAP-21, changes in the delivery of the tribal transportation, and to address concerns that have arisen since the rule was issued in 2004.
The Tribal Transportation Facilities are public roads which provide access to and within Indian reservations, Indian trust land, restricted Indian land, and Alaska native villages. The inventory of proposed and existing roads in the NTTFI is approximately 157,000 miles. Approximately 31,400 miles are BIA system roads, 26,000 miles of Tribal system roads, and 101,000 miles that are under State and local ownership. Tribal Transportation Program funds can be used for eligible Title 23 transportation related activities on tribal transportation facility and may also be used for the State/local matching share for apportioned Federal-aid Highway Funds.
The BIA and Tribal governments undertake most of the design and construction of Tribal Transportation Program projects.Under tribal self-determination contracts, self-governance agreements, FHWA Program Agreements or other appropriate agreements, Tribal governments can perform, administer and operate portions or all but "inherently Federal functions" of the TTP.