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WASHINGTON — More than two dozen American Indian tribes and Alaska Native communities will see an improvement in their transit thanks to $8.6 million in federal grant funding.

The competitive grants, awarded under the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration’s Tribal Transit Program, come on top of more than $35 million in formula funding for tribal transit each year. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes nearly $46 million in competitive funding over five years for Tribal Transit, an increase of nearly 83 percent.

“With today’s announcement, we are taking an important step to help ensure Tribal residents have access to reliable, affordable ways to get around,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “Using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, these grants will help improve transit for Tribal Nations around our country.”

According to the National Transit Database, nearly 12 million vehicle miles of service are provided by tribal transit systems each year nationwide, providing critical access to jobs, schools, healthcare, and shopping and eldercare. 

FTA’s Tribal Transit Program supports public transportation for federally recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, groups, or communities. The funding is vital to help Tribes meet the needs of their citizens, including elders, people with disabilities, and youth in rural areas.

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“Today’s grant awards will improve public transportation and connections for people in communities that have been historically underserved,” FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez said. “We want to make sure that no one is left behind as we expand and modernize transit systems.”

FTA received 47 eligible project proposals requesting approximately $18 million from tribes and Alaska Native village applicants in 17 states in response to the Notice of Funding Opportunity.

Among those projects selected to receive Fiscal Year 2022 funding were the Native Village of Unalakleet (Alaska), which was awarded $1.6 million to build a bus garage and maintenance facility. The village’s fleet provides on-demand transit to help residents get to the health clinic, grocery store, post office, tribal office, airport and other services. 

In addition, the Walker River Paiute Tribe will receive $976,360 to establish the Agai-Dicutta Tribal Transit Program, which will provide tribal transit services from the Walker River Paiute Reservation to several cities in Nevada to improve access to jobs, health care and economic opportunities. 

In Nebraska, the Winnebago Tribe will receive $489,700 to replace vehicles, buy new equipment, and upgrade its maintenance facility, ensuring a continuity of services in the face of winter weather conditions.